Monsanto says Bayer among options if Syngenta deal fizzles

More than nine weeks after Monsanto offered to buy Syngenta for $45 billion, the U.S. maker of seeds and weed killers is exploring other options should the Swiss company continue to reject the deal.

Monsanto would approach Germany’s Bayer about acquiring its crop chemicals business if it can’t buy Syngenta, Brett Begemann, chief operating officer of St. Louis-based Monsanto, said by phone Monday.

While Monsanto is “committed” to acquiring Syngenta, “we won’t stay at it forever,” he said.

“There are other options to pursue from a chemical standpoint, and we will go after those,” Begemann said. “I don’t know what Bayer is going to do with their crop-protection business, whether they’ll sell it or not, but I’m sure they’d be happy to talk about some other kind of marketing arrangement.”

War of words

Begemann’s comments are the latest salvo in an escalating war of words between Monsanto and Syngenta as the U.S. seed maker tries to bring its Swiss rival back to the negotiating table.

Syngenta Chairman Michel Demare said Tuesday that Monsanto’s bid was simplistic and is unlikely to be approved by regulators.

Syngenta’s global headquarters for biotechnology research is in Research Triangle Park, wherethe company employs more than 400 workers.

Monsanto makes Roundup weedkiller and crops that are genetically modified to tolerate the herbicide. It wants to own more proprietary chemicals that can be developed in tandem with new engineered seeds to maximize their value and get them to market faster, Begemann said.

Basel-based Syngenta is the world’s largest maker of herbicides, insecticides and other chemicals used to control crop pests. Bayer is the second- biggest.

Monsanto has offered 449 Swiss francs a share for Syngenta, representing a 43 percent premium to the share price at the close on April 30, just before Bloomberg News first reported the offer.

“A serious proposal to buy Syngenta has to be made at full and fair value, has to recognize for shareholders the inherent combination benefits and it has to provide a high degree of certainty that the transaction will be closed,” Demare said Tuesday in a video posted on his company’s website.

Monsanto has said it would consider a higher offer if Syngenta, through a due diligence process, would allow access to non-public information that demonstrates greater earnings potential, a proposal Syngenta has rejected.

Bayer’s plans

Begemann and other Monsanto executives met with Syngenta investors in Europe earlier this month to discuss the merits of the unsolicited offer.

While Bayer is in the process of splitting off its plastics unit, it has no plans to let go of the crop chemicals business, Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers said May 28. Collaboration with counterparts in Bayer’s human and animal health divisions will help the entire company, he said.

“This will be an enormous advantage for us in the future,” Dekkers said in an interview in Leverkusen, Germany.

Chris Loder, a U.S.-based Bayer spokesman, declined to comment on a possible Monsanto approach.

In the end, Monsanto would rather acquire Syngenta than talk with a conglomerate like Bayer about hiving off a unit, Begemann said.

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