An ear of corn the size of a Trident missile? Not quite, but Monsanto is all about bioengineered crops. The company helps farmers grow more crops like corn, cotton, oilseeds, and vegetables by applying biotechnology and genomics to seeds and herbicides. It produces genetically altered seeds that tolerate Roundup (its flagship product and the world's #1 herbicide) and resist bugs. The company also produces Asgrow, DEKALB, Deltapine, and Seminis seeds. During the past decade, Monsanto re-made itself into a seed and biotech company, as opposed to one focused on agrochemicals, a transition that was sped up with the acquisition of Delta and Pine Land. Bayer is buying Monsanto in a $66 billion deal.
St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto rings up more than half of its sales in the US. Europe-Africa, followed by Brazil, account for about 14% and 10%, respectively. Argentina contributes about 8% of sales.
Monsanto organizes its business into dual segments: Seeds and Genomics, and Agricultural Productivity. Today, its seeds and genomics unit (70% of sales) is the company's growth engine. The firm's agricultural productivity unit, which serves both farmers and the residential market, makes herbicides under the Roundup, Harness, and other brands for lawn and garden use.
Sales and Marketing
The company supports a worldwide distribution and sales and marketing organization for its two business segments. It sells its agricultural productivity products (aka herbicides) through distributors, independent retailers and dealers, and agricultural cooperatives. In some places outside the US, the company sells directly to farmers.
The recent strong financial (and stock) performance validates the company's course change from a company focused on herbicide sales to a seed and biotech business. Indeed, historically Monsanto's sales were generated primarily by the weed killer Roundup. Since its US patent on glyphosate expired in 2000, the company has seen its share of the herbicide market shrink. Still, Roundup herbicides are the world's largest crop protection brand and a significant source of revenue for Monsanto.
Looking to the future as a way to add diversity to its revenue, Monsanto formed a $1.5 billion joint R&D initiative with BASF to develop genetically modified crops with an emphasis on meeting the demand for biofuels. The two companies foresee the venture's first products being delivered sometime by the end of 2015.
Despite its success in the seed and biotech businesses (or more likely because of it), Monsanto is contending with the public's negative perception of genetically modified organisms (aka GMOs). The company has undertaken an aggressive international public relations campaign to promote genetically modified crops as beneficial rather than "Frankenfood."
In 2016 Monsanto agreed to be acquired by German chemicals giant Bayer, which has increasingly focused on its crop science operations. The planned $66 billion takeover will be the largest all-cash transaction to date, and is part of an industry-wide trend towards consolidation.