US drugs giant Pharmacia Corp. has revealed its intention to sell its remaining 85% stake in agricultural giant Monsanto during the second half of 2002, to allow it to focus on its core pharmaceuticals business.

CEO Fred Hassan announced the planned spin-off during a meeting with analysts and investors in New York yesterday. The deal will involve a tax-free dividend for the shareholders that control the remaining 15% of the business since its was floated in an IPO (initial public offering) during the fourth quarter of 2000.

Monsanto has been buffeted by both market scepticism and GM activists over recent years for its development of genetically altered seeds, and its falling sales have dragged down Pharmacia's financial results.

The Peapack, NJ-based Pharmacia acquired Monsanto in March last year in a bid to gain access to the firm's drug making subsidiary G.D. Searle, which has since been fully integrated into Pharmacia.