Apparel manufacturer Kellwood Co on Wednesday agreed to acquire Gerber Childrenswear Inc in a deal worth $135.6 million.

The St Louis-based firm said the deal for the South Carolina-heaquartered maker of infant and toddler clothing would see it tender at least $3.42 in cash and up to $3.43 in Kellwood common stock.

Gerber enjoyed sales of $210m in 2001 and its business consists of two major divisions - children's apparel and athletic hosiery.

"Gerber Childrenswear provides Kellwood with an excellent opportunity to expand our product offerings into infants and toddlers categories, and through Auburn Hosiery, into the athletic socks market," said Hal Upbin, Kellwood chairman, president and CEO.

"The Gerber name is synonymous with happy babies and we believe it will be a strong brand for Kellwood's portfolio. In addition, Auburn will also serve as Kellwood's first venture in marketing apparel to the European Community."

Gerber Childrenswear chairman, president and CEO, Edward Kittredge, added: "We look forward to being part of the Kellwood family of companies. Kellwood's strong balance sheet, worldwide sourcing network, extensive customer base, and excellent merchandising capabilities will allow us to grow Gerber to the next level."