ST. LOUIS — Continued momentum in the company’s seeds and traits business propelled a 35% increase in earnings at Monsanto Co. in the third quarter. Net income in the period ended May 31 was $937 million, equal to $1.76 per share on the common stock, up from $692 million, or $1.29 per share, in the same period a year ago.

Net sales in the third quarter rose 17% to $4,219 million from $3,608 million.

“With our largest selling seasons now complete, this third quarter is the punctuation mark in another year of compelling performance in our business,” Hugh Grant, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a June 27 conference call with analysts. “Simultaneously, it is a jumping off point as we expect to carry this year’s momentum and to continue strong growth in fiscal year 2013.”

Mr. Grant pointed to three accomplishments that have defined Monsanto’s fiscal 2012 thus far. First, he said the company has captured the momentum it had seen developing in the business.

“This began in 2011 and it continued through 2012,” he said. “With back-to-back years of across-the-board performance and 20% plus ongoing earnings growth, we are clearly in a growth mode.”
Second, he said Monsanto has expanded on a global stage.

“This was the first year our international business was roughly an equal contributor to our total growth,” he said. “And that is the leading edge of a trend as we see growth accelerating in a couple of these key geographies.”

Third, the strategy set forth two years ago to focus on yield and bring more product choices to farmer customers “is now in full swing,” he said.

Mr. Grant said the big driver in the United States has been volume growth and mix benefit from the annual upgrade of the company’s portfolio with the latest high-volume germplasm.

“In 2012 we have clearly seen an increase in total U.S. branded seed volume,” Mr. Grant said. “Practically, across the key corn and soybean platforms that puts us on track for organic share gains on our brands in both of these crops. And going into 2013 this germplasm refresh will certainly be as important to growth as it was this past year.”

For the nine months ended May 31 net income was $2,274 million, or $4.26 per share, up 32% from $1,719 million, or $3.20 per share, in the same period a year ago. Net sales were $11,406 million, up 19% from $9,575 million.