Monday, August 18, 2008

Monsanto (NYSE:MON): Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch out positive on MON this morning

We have several tier-1 firms out positive on Monsanto (NYSE:MON) this AM:

- Merrill Lynch is raising their tgt to $165 from $155 (Reit Buy) noting that at its recent investor field event Monsanto indicated that fiscal 2009 biotech trait price increases will be above earlier expectations, particularly for triple stacked corn up 33% on average from 2008 versus June guidance of a 20% increase. MLCO's proprietary review of Monsanto’s just-issued price lists indicate that the trait increase approaches 50% for the premium product (VT triple) in the high-yield, high-rootworm pressure areas, but is roughly flat in lower-yielding, low rootworm pressure areas, which they believe will drive penetration rates. Second generation Roundup-tolerant soybeans will be priced $20/acre above first generation versus original expectations of $15. The first generation product will see a seed and trait increase of ~$12/acre, which will be largely offset by higher production costs.

Firm is raising their F2009 and 2010 estimates to $5.10 and $6.10 to reflect the improved pricing outlook in both the seed and genomics segment and in Roundup.

- Morgan Stanley notes that following Monsanto’s third annual Whistle Stop investor event in Monmouth, IL they have increasing conviction in: i) The Company’s ability to execute its overall business plan regardless of the commodity price environment (i.e., secularly higher commodity prices provide upside to the opportunity set, but not the opportunity set itself); ii) The efficacy of Monsanto’s pipeline products; and iii) The Company’s ability to commercialize its pipeline on time. Firm expects the confluence of the above to allow Monsanto to continue to enjoy corn and soybean market share gains (i.e., bigger castle) while lengthening its lead in developing new farm biotechnology (i.e., wider moat).

While Monsanto shares may remain volatile around swings in the US$ and crude oil price, the firm sees only correlation in this regard and not causation (i.e., no P&L impact) and therefore anticipate that as Monsanto continues to execute on its business plan regardless of the US dollar,
crude oil price or corn price (i.e., it anticipates corn gross profit to grow 25-30% in F2009 against a 25% comp), Monsanto shares will trade up towards their intrinsic value.

Reits Overweight and $170 tgt.

Notablecalls: I think these two calls serve to push the stock towards higher levels today. I feel that under overall positive tone the stock could reach $120+ in coming weeks.

Note that Citigroup is out with a positive Fert. call this AM, pushing Potash (NYSE:POT) as their Top Pick. This will surely help the positive sentiment.

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