* Shares slump 3.1 percent premarket
* Quarterly loss worse than year ago
* Corn, cotton sales down, soybeans, vegetables up
By Carey Gillam
Oct 3 (Reuters) - Global agribusiness group Monsanto Co posted a fourth-quarter loss on Wednesday, as expected, amid a seasonally sluggish sales period, and offered a conservative outlook for the new year.
Shares slumped 3.1 percent to $88.13 in premarket trade after Monsanto disappointed analysts with its fiscal 2013 earnings forecast ranging from $4.18 to $4.32 per share. Analysts were looking for a high end of $4.38 a share for the new year.
For the fiscal year just ended, Monsanto said ongoing earnings growth hit 25 percent, excluding unusual items, but the company forecast mid-teens ongoing earnings growth for 2013.
Sales totaled $2.11 billion for the quarter ended Aug. 31, down from $2.25 billion a year before, as corn seeds and trait sales declined year to year.
Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and a developer of genetically engineered corn, soybeans, and other crops, posted a quarterly loss of 44 cents a share on an ongoing basis, excluding a restructuring charge of 2 cents a share, worse than the loss of 22 cents a share a year before but in line with analysts’ expectations.
On a net basis, the company lost $229 million, or 42 cents a share, for the quarter, compared with a loss of $112 million, or 21 cents a share, a year before.
Company officials said the base business in the United States was complemented by its growing international seeds and traits performance.
Sales of corn seeds and traits dropped 12 percent in the fourth quarter from a year ago, and cotton sales were off 84 percent. Quarterly soybean sales, meanwhile, jumped 48 percent, and vegetable seed sales were up 26 percent year over year.