KANSAS CITY (B)--Delta and Pine Land Co., with customers buying cotton seed earlier than usual, March 27 reported fiscal second-quarter profits that were nearly double what it earned a year ago, easily beating Wall Street's expectations.

Delta reported second-quarter earnings of $23.8 million, or 59 cents per share, up from $12.0 million, or 30 cents per share, before special items last year.

The Scott, MS, company was projected to earn 40 cents per share in the February-ended quarter, according to the First Call/Thomson Financial analyst survey.

Net sales for the second quarter were $150.2 million, up 44% from a year ago, due largely to a shift in shipments usually made in the third quarter into the second quarter, Delta said.

Sales of domestic seed during the quarter jumped 43% from a year ago, Delta said, noting cotton industry watchers expect increased acres this year. Delta's soybean seed sales, however, trailed year-ago levels due to an apparent shift into cotton by some growers and price cutting by competitors, the company said.

The sales shift into an earlier quarter is not expected to affect annual earnings, Delta said, adding that it remains comfortable with annual earnings projections. For Delta's August-ending fiscal year, analysts currently project profits of $1.13 per share.

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