By Jacob Bunge and Dana Mattioli
Bayer AG has approached Monsanto Co. about a takeover that would fuse two of the world’s largest suppliers of crop
seeds and pesticides, the companies said.
Details of the offer couldn’t be learned and it was unclear whether Monsanto would be receptive to it. Should there
be a deal, it could be valued at more than $42 billion, which is Monsanto’s current market capitalization.
Bayer early Thursday confirmed that executives from the German company had met with executives of Monsanto discuss
a possible acquisition, saying a tie-up would “create a leading integrated agriculture business.”
Should the bid succeed, a combination of the companies could boast $67 billion in annual sales and create the
world’s largest seed and crop-chemical company. A successful deal would ratchet up consolidation in the agricultural
sector, after rivals Dow Chemical Co., DuPont Co. and Syngenta AG struck their own deals over the past six months.
But there is no guarantee regulators would bless such a tie-up, and if Monsanto isn’t on board, winning regulatory
approval could be an even greater challenge. Indeed, people familiar with the matter have questioned whether Monsanto
would be interested in such a deal.
Absorbing St. Louis-based Monsanto, the world’s top seed company in terms of sales, would push Bayer far more
deeply into agriculture, which currently accounts for about 22% of the German company’s business. Monsanto’s$15 billion
in seed and herbicide sales could make agriculture about 40% of the combined entity’s business, with the rest coming
from pharmaceuticals and consumer health products.
The approach comes as the agricultural sector faces heavy pressure after three years of sliding crop prices, which
slashed U.S. farmers’ income to the lowest level in over a decade and forced companies to cut prices on seeds while
scaling back research and laying off staff. Monsanto in May cut its profit forecast for the year and is eliminating
about 16% of its employees.
Folding Monsanto’s world-leading seed franchise and its trademark Roundup herbicide business into Bayer would
create a company that could market products ranging from Aspirin pain-relief pills to crop genetics that enable plants
to withstand bugs and weedkillers. The combination would sell about 28% of the world’s pesticides and about 36% of U.S.
corn seeds and 28% of soybean seeds, according to Morgan Stanley estimates.
The companies’ agricultural portfolios are geographically complementary, with North America as Monsanto’s largest
market and Bayer having a greater presence in Europe and Asia. Bayer’s broader portfolio of chemicals to kill crop-
damaging bugs and weeds can be sold across more countries than the 28 that permit genetically modified crops, a business
where global growth has slowed.
As crop prices have fallen around the world and biotech seeds have neared a point of saturation in major markets
where they are allowed, such as the U.S. and Brazil, world-wide acreage of genetically engineered crops edged 1% lower
last year, the first such decline on record, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech
Bayer has no significant business in corn and soybean seeds, the two largest U.S. crops in terms of acreage, though
overlap in the companies’ vegetable and cotton seed units may need to be addressed through divestitures, analysts said
after Bloomberg reported last week that the German company was considering the approach.
Merging the businesses could require Bayer to divest itself of its glufosinate herbicide business, which competes
with Monsanto’s Roundup, as well as related seed genes that allow corn, cotton and soybean seeds to withstand the
herbicide, analysts said.
Monsanto sparked the deal fervor last year with an unsuccessful, $46 billion bid for Swiss rival Syngenta AG, which
ultimately agreed to sell itself to China National Chemical Corp., while Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. unveiled their
own merger. That left the other major global seed and pesticide players — Monsanto, Bayer and BASF SE — to potentially
face enlarged rivals, and entertain a narrower range of potential partners.
Hugh Grant, Monsanto’s chairman and chief executive, said last month that his company no longer planned to pursue
big deals to grow, instead focusing on its core business and weighing partnerships or joint ventures to develop a
broader pesticide business. Monsanto’s currency for deals has also waned. The company’s share price had declined 8.3%
for the year before reports last week that bidders, including Bayer, were considering an offer for the biotech seed
A combination of the two companies could achieve Monsanto’s goal in the Syngenta deal: adding a broad portfolio of
pesticides and deep research capabilities to match Monsanto’s prowess in breeding and engineering high-yielding seeds
paired with new and more powerful crop sprays. In pitching the Syngenta deal to investors and farmers, Monsanto touted
the potential to reduce research spending by combining functions and the potential to bring new products more quickly to
Another seed-sector merger would also test farmers’ appetite for consolidation. Monsanto’s bid for Syngenta and the
Dow-DuPont merger plan have heightened concerns over competition in the U.S. Farm Belt, with a shrinking number of firms
overseeing greater swaths of the seed and pesticide business. The National Farmers Union and other groups raised
concerns that the mergers could yield higher prices and fewer choices at grain elevators and crop supply stores where
farmers purchase their seeds and sprays.
–Christopher Alessi in Frankfurt contributed to this article.
Write to Jacob Bunge at email@example.com and Dana Mattioli at firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrections & Amplifications: Folding Monsanto into Bayer would create a company with a combined $67 billion in
annual sales. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the figure as $68 billion. (May 18, 2016)
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