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Ceres Plans IPO to Challenge Monsanto in Modified Seeds

Ceres Inc., a U.S. seed maker, plans to raise as much as $100 million in an initial public offering to expand output of genetically modified crops used in the production of biofuels.

The shares will be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol CERE, the Thousand Oaks, California-based company said today in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Ceres, which has been operating since 1997, will use some of the proceeds from the IPO to develop, produce and commercialize crop seeds.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Barclays Plc will underwrite the IPO, according to the filing. Ceres didn’t say how many shares would be sold, or provide a price range.

Ceres is ramping up production to challenge Monsanto and DuPont Co.’s Pioneer unit, the two largest makers of genetically modified crops. Ceres has commercialized sweet sorghum that serves as an alternative to sugarcane in the Brazilian ethanol industry. It’s developing other so-called energy crops as well as plants that tolerate drought and salt.

Monsanto has been working with Ceres to develop improved corn and soybeans. Ceres said in the filing that St. Louis-based Monsanto has a license to some of its genetic traits. Monsanto has a 6.4 percent stake in Ceres.

Other Ceres investors include Artal Luxembourg SA with an 18 percent stake; Warburg Pincus Private Equity IX LP with 16 percent; Ambergate Trust with 14 percent; and Oxford Bioscience with 11 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jack Kaskey in Houston at jkaskey@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Casey at scasey4@bloomberg.net.

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