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The big takeover that never happened
R.I.P. AgriBioTech

(17 August - Cropchoice News) -- A couple years back, Agribiotech looked like a corporate consolidation monster in the making. Its Las Vegas-based management, not averse to risk, formed the company in 1995 and started a Monsanto-style seed company buying splurge in the forage and turfgrass industries. The company announced it would achieve a 45% share in the forage and turfgrass industries in 2000. By 1998, Agribiotech had gobbled up almost three dozen seed companies and brands into what was supposed to be a major player in GMOs.

Agribiotech's management had other things than making seed in mind. The company aggressively offered itself up for sale. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do, if not for agriculture's interests, at least for making money. At the time, mergers in the seed industry were earning big bucks for shareholders in seed companies. Some seed makers were practically auctioning themsleves off to DuPont (Pioneer), Aventis (AgrEvo), Pharmacia (Monsanto), Novartis (Northrup King) and the other eventual corporate consolidation winners. The big guys paid big premiums over the stock price for established seed companies. Investing was certainly paying more than planting corn, or alfalfa.

But nobody put money on the table for Agribiotech. As the company's financial sitation worsened (imagine the mess of an inexperienced management in Las Vegas trying to piece together dozens of realtively small seed operations across the US and Canada), Agribiotech cried louder to be bought out.

But it didn't happen and the company had to file for bankruptcy and try to reorganize. That failed too, and in February of this year, Agribiotech finally had to submit to being liquidated.

In the past few weeks, most of the deals have finally closed and Agbiotech is about at its end. So, who's scooping up a pieces of Agribiotech at a bargain basement price? Here's a run-down:

-> Land o' Lakes just keeps getting bigger and has bought Agribiotech's Hytest seed brand. Hytest isn't just a forage brand. It includes corn, soybean, sorghum, and wheat varieties.

-> Simplot, the golf and turfgrass king, scooped up some Agribiotech's crown jewels in turfgrasses, including popular bentgrass and fescue varieties.

-> Research Seeds, based in St. Joseph, Missouri, bought many of the prime biotech assets. Research is already developing GMO rhizobia inoculants and (here's a mouthful) "Novartis NK Brand Roundup Ready alfalfa", among other biotech work. Research Seeds picked up a number of facilities and biotech agreements for itself and its Forage Genetics International subsidiary. Research Seeds has been aggressively consolidating. It bought a number of assets from Advanta earlier this year. If a candidate exists to realize Agbiotech's vision of a grass biotechnology giant, Research Seeds may be it.

-> Dairyland Seeds, based in Wisconsin, scooped up an alfalfa conditioning facility in Idaho.

-> Last, but not least, Canadian company Pickseed bought Agribiotech Canada, which was composed of Oseco and Rothwell Seeds, two formerly indpendent Ontario companies.

SOURCE: Agribiotech, Pickseed, Grainnet, RAFI, Research Seeds, Simplot.