Monsanto Seeking Mega Deals With German Rivals?

22.03.2016 -

The frenzy in the global agrochemicals market is showing no signs of tapering off anytime soon. Where activity once was focused on sow and spray, it’s now buy and sell.

The latest market rumor or reality, depending on whether you’re the company trying to nip the talk in the bud or the one planting discreet hints, has it that Monsanto is running scared after Syngenta escaped its grasp and will not rest until it satiates its hunger for a deal. This could entail biting off a large chunk of a European rival.

Trouble is also brewing on the home front, where a merged DowDuPont could threaten Monsanto’s leadership in seeds.

According to news agencies, the US giant has spent the past several weeks discussing various kinds of deals with both Bayer and BASF. Some analysts have speculated that the talks with Bayer may have been aimed primarily at putting BASF, as its preferred partner, under pressure.

At the same time, one unnamed source told Reuters that Monsanto has discussed with Bayer not only the acquisition of parts of its crop protection business – more critical mass in chemical crop protection is what the US group is generally thought to be after – and even offered to buy all of Bayer CropScience for more than $30 billion.

This price would imply a multiple of 2.6 times the unit's sales, which Bloomberg said would seem to undervalue the business with annual sales of €10.4 billion ($11.7 billion). ChemChina’s offer of $43 billion for Syngenta is 3.5 times that company’s sales.

The two German players are regarded to be better positioned on the chemicals side than Monsanto. According to most calculations, Bayer is the world’s second-largest player in crop protection, with an 18% share, just below the 19% held by Syngenta, the US group’s original target.

Both Leverkusen-based Bayer and Ludwigshafen-based BASF up to now have insisted that they are not interested in selling their entire crop protection businesses. Some commentators see the talks with BASF as having ended.

For Bayer, the timing of a spectacular deal is seen as bad, as the company is poised to undergo a change of leadership in April, when Werner Baumann takes over from Marijn Dekkers as CEO. But some think that, while being officially noncommittal, Bayer is gauging the level of Monsanto’s interest, in particular the price it is prepared to pay.