Monsanto plans deeper cuts in workforce

Monsanto Co., the world's biggest seed maker, said Thursday it plans to make deeper work force cuts than previously announced, saying it will reduce its staff by about 8 percent to cut costs.

The St. Louis-based company also said its 2009 earnings would come in at the low end of its previous forecast due in part to weaker than expected results from Roundup and other herbicides.

Its shares tumbled $4.42, or 5.3 percent, to $79.06 in afternoon trading Thursday.

In June, Monsanto had said it was cutting about 4 percent of its staff, or about 900 jobs. The new target of 8 percent indicates the St. Louis-based company is cutting about 1,800 jobs, according to spokeswoman Kelli Powers, who also said most of the employees working in the U.S. have already been notified of the job cuts.

Executives said in June the cuts were necessary because of surprisingly weak Roundup sales. After Roundup's patent expired in 2000, a flood of competitors entered the market. Monsanto was caught off guard this year when a flood of generic Roundup products flooded the global market and gutted prices.

In response, Monsanto restructured the company to have one smaller division focus on Roundup while the other divisions focus primarily on selling patented -- and profitable -- genetically engineered seeds. The job cuts are part of the restructuring, which Monsanto estimates could cost between $550 million and $600 million.

The company hopes the restructuring will save between $220 million to $250 million annually, with one-third recognized in fiscal 2010 and the full amount in 2011. The company currently employs around 21,700 people.

Splitting off the company's Roundup division dovetails with Monsanto's broader strategy of developing new lines of genetically engineered crops.

"We are now managing our way through a competitive spike in the supply of generic glyphosate," Chief Financial Officer Carl Casale said in a statement.