Sales in the first quarter of 2008 increased by 20 percent at constant exchange rates (CER). Reported sales benefited from the weakness of the dollar and were 28 percent higher at $3.8 billion. Substantial volume growth was supplemented by a three percent increase in pricing.
In Crop Protection sales were 22 percent higher (CER) with a strong start to the Northern hemisphere season and continued momentum in Latin America. Western and Eastern Europe both achieved high growth rates as growers prepared to step up usage intensity and increase plantings of corn as well as cereals. In NAFTA, performance was driven by demand for wheat and corn fungicides and by strong growth in non-selective herbicides and professional products. In Asia Pacific, emerging markets continued to expand rapidly and Australia saw more favourable weather conditions.
All product lines contributed to growth with the most notable performances coming from non-selective herbicides, driven by TOUCHDOWN® and GRAMOXONE®, and fungicides, led by a surge in sales of AMISTAR® for cereals and corn. In selective herbicides, insecticides and professional products, recent launches played a key role with strong growth in AXIAL®, ACTARA® and CRUISER®; overall new product sales rose by 24 percent to $487 million.
Seeds sales were 13 percent higher (CER). In the USA growth in soybean offset the impact of lower corn acreage, while corn sales expanded rapidly in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Sales of diverse field crops reflected increased sunflower demand, notably in Eastern Europe. In vegetables and flowers, strong growth in vegetables was augmented by the consolidation of Zeraim Gedera and Fischer.
While the first quarter growth rate is unlikely to be sustained throughout the year, the early momentum leads the company to expect that full year earnings per share* growth is likely to exceed 20 percent.
* Fully diluted, excluding 2007 non-recurring income, restructuring, impairment and share repurchase program.