Germany – St. Louis, MO – The U.S. Justice Department has approved Bayer AG’s purchase of the Monsanto Company for a reported $66 billion after a two year long quest, according to an article in Bloomberg.
The merger was contingent on Bayer selling agricultural businesses and assets worth about $9 billion to chemical company BASF. According to a statement from the Department of Justice, the proposed divestiture to BASF, an experienced chemical company with a substantial crop protection business, “will fully resolve all horizontal and vertical competition concerns. As a result, American farmers and consumers will continue to benefit from competition in this industry.” The divestiture is the largest antitrust-related divestiture ever, according to the Justice Department.
The National Farmer’s Union (NFU) condemned the move in a statement on its web site. Says president Robert Johnson, “While we appreciate the significant divestitures agreed to as part of this approval, Farmers Union condemns DOJ’s continued rubber-stamping of mergers in the food and agriculture arena. We will now focus our efforts on ensuring the promises made by Bayer and Monsanto throughout this approval process are kept.”
For Bayer, acquiring Monsanto is the last step in a corporate transformation as the 154-year-old company sheds its plastics business and remakes itself as a life-science company with equally-sized health and agriculture units. Once the deal is consolidated, it will leave three global giants dominating the world agricultural industry, a prospect that concerns both farmers and consumers alike.
Says Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance, in an email, the acquisition would technically make Monsanto a participant in the U.S. dietary supplement industry via being a part of Bayer. Bayer has been and is an active member of the industry. “What this portends remains to be seen in terms of policy and advocacy,” he writes.
Israelsen adds, “An area of interest and public discussion from the UNPA perspective is the basic issue of seed ownership and control. It is our continued belief that seed diversity and access is a fundamental issue and a matter that should be openly discussed and addressed within our industry. We will vigorously encourage that debate to serve the interests of our consumers and farmers alike.”
Bayer expects to receive the approvals it needs from Canada and Mexico in the coming days. It can then close the deal once it has the remaining approvals even though the integration of the two companies won’t happen until the BASF divestitures are finished, which will probably be in about two months.
Last year, U.S. and EU regulators approved two other major deals in the sector, Dow Chemical Co.’s merger with DuPont Co. and China National Chemical Corp.’s takeover of Syngenta AG. With about $48 billion in sales from their combined businesses, Bayer and Monsanto will surpass those of both DowDuPont Inc. and China National.
As WholeFoods has reported, this deal makes Bayer-Monsanto the world’s biggest supplier of pesticides and seeds for farmers.
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