General Mills earnings drop, Monsanto's rise

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -— With ingredient prices popping up like toaster strudel, General Mills Inc. said Wednesday that it has raised cereal prices and might consider other price increases.

The maker of Yoplait Yogurt, Wheaties cereal and Pillsbury Toaster Strudel said its fiscal fourth-quarter profit dropped 17 percent.

"Input cost inflation will remain a significant challenge for us," with the biggest increase coming early in the fiscal year, Chief Financial Officer Don Mulligan said.

Foodmakers are vulnerable to inflation on several fronts: Costs are up for raw ingredients like wheat and oats, for natural gas to run their foodmaking operations and for the diesel to haul their products around.

General Mills says it has been fighting that by streamlining its operations. And it saved about $1 million a year by reducing the number of pretzel varieties in its Chex Mix from 14 to three.

For the quarter that ended May 25, the Minneapolis-based foodmaker's net income fell to $185.2 million, or 53 cents per share, from $224.1 million, or 62 cents, a year earlier. Excluding losses on commodity positions, General Mills would have earned 73 cents per share. The company recorded a $111 million loss on commodity hedges because prices in some commodities—especially wheat—declined during the quarter.

Monsanto Co, reported that the St. Louis-based company's profit soared 42 percent in its fiscal third quarter on a strong performance by Roundup herbicide and by its seeds and traits business. The company also boosted its earnings guidance for the year.

But its shares fell more than 4 percent in morning trading as its revenue for the quarter came in below expectations. Its shares recovered slightly, but still closed down $4.27, or 3.1 percent, at $131.52.

Monsanto said Wednesday that it earned $811 million, or $1.45 per share, in the three months ended May 31, up from earnings of $570 million, or $1.03 per share, in the same period a year ago.

Sales rose 26 percent, to $3.59 billion, up from $2.84 billion.

Monsanto cited increased sales of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides globally; increased revenue from soybean, corn and cotton seed and traits revenue in the U.S.; and higher corn seed revenues in Europe and Africa.