Pharmacia

(PHA)

said Monday it expects its earnings per share to increase 20% in 2001, driven by strong sales and earnings in its pharmaceuticals business.

The pharmaceuticals company, which produces the blockbuster arthritis drug Clebrex, said it expects earnings growth of 18% to 20% in the first quarter. Eleven analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

are calling for the company to earn 39 cents in the first quarter, up from the 33 cents it earned in the year-ago period. Nineteen analysts are expecting the company to earn $1.75 for the year, ahead of the $1.45 it posted in 2000.

The company also said the realization of merger savings and restructuring benefits should help fuel the growth. Prescription pharmaceutical products should lead growth in its pharmaceuticals business, while subsidiary

Monsanto

(MON)

is expected to increase its earnings per share 9% to 13%.

Last month, Pharmacia posted

fourth-quarter earnings in line with analysts' expectations.

Shares of Pharmacia, which is based in Peapack, N.J., fell 85 cents, or 1.7%, to $50.34 in regular session New York Stock Exchange trading.