Bayer eyes farming industry giant with 62-billion-dollar Monsanto bid

German pharmaceutical giant Bayer released details of a 62-billion-dollar cash offer for US agrochemical company Monsanto Monday, a deal that would create the world's largest provider of pesticides and crop seeds.

The takeover prices Monsanto shares at 122 dollars each. That would represent a 37-per-cent premium on the level at which Monsanto shares were trading two weeks ago.

Bayer depicted the announcement as an attempt to provide clarity to "market speculation and stakeholder inquiries." It had confirmed plans for the deal last week, but had not publicly stated the price it was willing to pay.

"Together we would draw on the collective expertise of both companies to build a leading agriculture player with exceptional innovation capabilities to the benefit of farmers, consumers, our employees and the communities in which we operate," said Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann in the announcement.

However, the deal did not necessarily wow markets, which, at one point, sent Bayer stocks to 86.30 euros (96.66 dollars) on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, its lowest price since October 2013. It later recovered to 87.14 euros a share, which was still down 2.68 per cent from the previous day's trading.

That is "a very high price for a first offer," said one trader. Commerzbank analyst Daniel Wendorff said he would have expected an offer closer to 2 dollars a share.

"A fair number of things could still happen before this transaction is completed," he added. John Klein of Berenberg bank speculated that Monsanto might view the bid as too low and investigate a counteroffer from German chemicals firm BASF.

BASF did not comment on such speculation on Monday.

If the merger goes through, the combined company would be expected to make about 60 billion euros (67.4 billion dollars) in annual sales and employ a combined 140,000 people. If Monsanto accepts the offer, it would still have to be approved by regulators.

Baumann called the offer "very attractive."

However, environmental activists have questioned the wisdom of Bayer's move, noting that Monsanto's reputation is closely linked to controversial products like genetically modified seeds and pesticides such as its Roundup brand.

"Gene technology and pesticides are not technologies of the future but ones of risk," said Anton Hofreiter, head of the Green party in the German Bundestag. "Doing this will show the lie of Bayer's own talk about a sustainable corporate culture."

German union IG BCE said it would keep a close eye on the talks to make sure union workers do not get disadvantaged. The company also noted that integrating the German and US sides of the new company would be an "obviously great challenge."

Bayer said it would keep a large part of its operations in Germany, though its North American headquarters would be based at Monsanto's current location in St Louis, Missouri.

Bayer said it was in advanced discussions with banks about financing the deal and said that any money it would have to borrow to finalize the deal could be quickly paid back due to "the strong cash-flow generation of the combined business as well as Bayer's track record of disciplined deleveraging after large acquisitions."

In a telephone conference, Baumann said he did not foresee having to sell off any of its holdings to finance the deal. There is a round of capital raising planned.

The company also said it wanted to move ahead with negotiations about the deal as quickly as possible.

Monsanto, which is based in the US state of Missouri, had no comments about Monday's proposal on either its website or its Twitter feed.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25
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