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Monsanto to sell European wheat, barley assets

(Tuesday, March 30, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Jim Suhr, Associated Press, 03/29/04: ST. LOUIS - Agriculture biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. said Monday it has signed a deal to sell assets of its European wheat and barley business to France-based RAGT Genetique SA as part of Monsanto's global restructuring.

St. Louis-based Monsanto, which last year announced its plans to exit its United Kingdom-based European wheat and barley breeding market, did not announce terms of the deal with privately held RAGT, which largely deals in cereal crops.

"Over the past few years, we believe our management of this business has resulted in its becoming much more efficient and competitive in today's challenging European cereals market," said Brett Begemann, executive vice president of Monsanto's global commercial operations. "We're pleased RAGT is investing in this business and will continue to develop seed products that will benefit wheat and barley farmers."

As part of the sale, RAGT gets assets including the wheat and barley seed-breeding sites in France, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

After completing the divestiture, Monsanto expects to post a net gain of roughly $25 million before taxes after accounting for currency adjustments and transactional costs.

In announcing its plans to exit the European barely and wheat business, Monsanto said last October it wanted to pare costs tied to its agricultural chemistry business, further focusing its resources on its seeds and biotechnology traits business.

Specifically, Monsanto said it also planned to cut costs linked to its Roundup herbicide operations and barley, and discontinue its plant-made pharmaceuticals program.

Monsanto had bought the European seed and breeding assets in 1998 from Unilever largely to develop hybrid wheat, only to see lackluster performance of the operations since then, Monsanto spokesman Bryan Hurley said Monday.

"There's been quite a bit of erosion in that market through the past few years," he said.

Monsanto shares closed up 59 cents, or 1.7 percent, at $35.02 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange (news - web sites).

Monsanto Co., http://www.monsanto.com
RAGT, http://www.ragt-semences.com