Business Briefing

Monsanto reports 19% profit drop

Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest seed maker, said that profit fell by 19% in the second quarter as prices continued to stagnate for its popular herbicide Roundup.

Chief Executive Hugh Grant said income will be crimped in the next two years as the company is forced to cut seed prices. He said Monsanto is unlikely to meet its goal of doubling 2007 gross profit by 2012.

Since then, Roundup prices have plunged because of a flood of generic competitors. The St. Louis company said its profit amounted to $887 million in the quarter ended Feb. 28, compared with $1.09 billion in the same period last year. Revenue fell to $3.89 billion from $4.04 billion a year earlier.


CEOs are more upbeat on hiring

For the first time in two years, more chief executives expect to be adding jobs than cutting them.

A survey released by the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of big U.S. companies, says 29% of chief executives expect to increase corporate payrolls in the next six months, while 21% predict that their workforces will shrink. Half see no change in jobs.

About 73% say they expect sales to grow over the next half year, 23% forecast no change, and only 5% predict shrinking sales. That’s down from the 17% in the fourth quarter who had expected declining sales.


IPad parts cost $260, firm says

Materials used to assemble Apple Inc.'s iPad tablet computer cost as little as $259.60, according to an analysis by market research firm iSuppli Corp.

Hardware for the iPad, which went on sale Saturday, include a touch-screen display that costs $95 and a $26.80 processor designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co., according to iSuppli.

The El Segundo firm said its analysis indicates that components of the lowest-priced, 16-gigabyte iPad amounts to 52% of its $499 retail price. That puts the iPad on par with other Apple products, including the iPhone 3GS. A high-end, 64-gigabyte version of the iPad, which retails for $699, contains components that cost $348.10, according to iSuppli.

Apple declined to comment.


Book sales fell 1.8% in 2009

U.S. book sales fell 1.8% last year to $23.9 billion, led by a drop in some educational books, the Assn. of American Publishers said.

Elementary- and high-school book sales, the largest single category, plunged 14% to $5.2 billion from $6.1 billion in 2008, the group said. Paperbacks for adults dropped 5.2% to $2.2 billion.

Digital book sales for devices such as Inc.'s Kindle and Barnes & Noble Inc.'s Nook almost tripled to $313.2 million.

Books for higher education posted a 13% increase to $4.3 billion.

The association, based in New York, said it surveyed 86 publishers and used census data for its sales report.


Spas warned on fat-melting shots

The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on so-called fat-melting injections used in spas across the U.S., saying the drugs have not been proved safe or effective.

Lipodissolve injections, a popular nonsurgical alternative to liposuction, are used to dissolve small fat deposits around the legs, arms and belly. The FDA said the drugs have not been cleared by federal scientists, as required by law.

The agency issued warning letters to half a dozen spas that offer the injections, citing them for making unsubstantiated claims about lipodissolve therapy.

Spas that offer the injections say they are safe and effective. Some patients have complained of swelling, hard lumps and dark spots on their skin after receiving the therapy.


N.Y. firm may be EADS supplier

Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. is likely to choose L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. as a key supplier if it decides to go after the $35-billion Pentagon contract for aerial refueling tankers, analysts said.

EADS has been looking to team with a U.S. partner since Century City’s Northrop Grumman Corp. announced it would not pursue the contract in early March, said Scott Hamilton, an aviation industry consultant in Issaquah, Wash. It appears that L-3, a New York company, will be an EADS supplier on the endeavor if it decides to bid, he said.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. is the only active bidder for the contract to build the planes, which would refuel U.S. fighter jets and bombers in flight.

EADS and L-3 both declined to comment.

-- times staff and wire reports