UPDATE 1-Syngenta sees strong Latam season start

Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:24am EDT

* Q3 sales up 6 pct to $2.7 bln vs $2.8 bln in Reuters poll

* Says saw strong start to Latin America season

* Confirms sees higher EBITDA margin and EPS growth

ZURICH, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Syngenta, the world's largest agrochemicals company, confirmed its full-year financial targets on Tuesday after a strong start to the planting season in Latin America.

Sales at Syngenta, which makes products to kill weeds and bugs, rose 6 percent at constant exchange rates, to $2.7 billion, just short of the median forecast of $2.8 billion seen in a Reuters poll.

Sales in Latin America, the group's most important geographical zone at this time of the year, were up 18 percent to $1.1 billion, Syngenta said.

"This, together with the increase in our targets for key crops, gives us increased confidence in our long term growth potential," Chief Executive Mike Mack said in a statement.

He reiterated Syngenta expected an increase in its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) margin at constant exchange rates for the full year and strong growth in earnings per share.

The Swiss-based firm lifted its target for sales of products for its eight top crops to $25 billion by 2020.

The world's top seed and crop protection companies are battling to develop new technologies that can improve productivity for farmers grappling with increasingly erratic and extreme weather conditions.

Latin American farmers are planting more crops this season to make up for production shortfalls in the wake of a historic drought that hit the Midwest grain belt this summer, sending U.S. corn and soybean prices to record highs.

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