updated 2/17/2005 6:48:19 PM ET 2005-02-17T23:48:19

Continuing its recent buying spree, agribusiness Monsanto Co. said Thursday it plans to buy Emergent Genetics Inc. — the nation's third-largest cotton seed company — for $300 million.

The announcement comes less than a month after St. Louis-based Monsanto agreed to a $1 billion cash deal to buy Seminis Inc., the Oxnard, Calif.-based supplier of more than 3,500 seed varieties to commercial fruit and vegetable growers, dealers, distributors and wholesalers in more than 150 countries.

"This is our second major strategic acquisition recently and now we believe we have the elements we need to achieve our goals," said Hugh Grant, Monsanto's chairman, president and chief executive.

To reflect the acquisition of Emergent, Monsanto said it now expects its earnings per share on an ongoing business basis for fiscal 2005 to be near the upper end of its previous forecast of $1.85 to $2.00.

Monsanto shares fell 58 cents, or 1 percent, to close at $55.90 on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange — near the high end of its 52-week trading range of $31.21 to $59.29.

Boulder, Colo.-based Emergent has roughly 12 percent of the U.S. cotton seed market through its Stoneville and NexGen brands. Emergent also has two cotton seed brands in India and a solid presence in several other smaller cotton-growing markets.

With Emergent and Seminis, Monsanto said it will have a broader germplasm and traits platform, accelerating Monsanto's earnings growth this year by complementing Monsanto's biotech corn and soybeans business.

With competition continuing to erode Monsanto's dominance in herbicides, the maker of Roundup has increasingly focused on seeds — including genetically modified offerings able to withstand weeds, insects and disease seeds — for future profits. Monsanto already makes the DeKalb and Asgrow brands of seeds.

Late last year, Monsanto's newly formed holding company — American Seeds Inc. — acquired Indiana-based seed company Channel Bio Corp. for $120 million cash. Monsanto formed American Seeds to support regional seed businesses with capital, genetics and technology investments.

Monsanto said it expects the Emergent deal, subject to regulatory approvals, to close "as soon as practical." The acquisition does not include Denmark-based Emergent Vegetable A/S.

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