Bayer (BAYGn.DE) won U.S. approval for its planned takeover of Monsanto (MON.N) after agreeing to sell about $9 billion in assets, clearing a major hurdle for the $62.5 billion deal that will create by far the largest seeds and pesticides maker.
Makan Delrahim, who heads the U.S. Justice Department’s (DoJ) Antitrust Division, said the asset sales agreed to by Bayer were the “largest ever divestiture ever required by the United States.”
A Bayer spokesman said the planned sale of businesses with 2.2 billion euros ($2.54 billion) in sales to BASF already agreed to address antitrust concerns, mainly in Europe, were not materially different from the DoJ’s demands.
“Receipt of the DOJ’s approval brings us close to our goal of creating a leading company in agriculture,” Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said in a statement.
After months of delays in a drawn-out review process the ruling brings Bayer close to creating an agricultural supplies giant with sales of about 20 billion euros, based on 2017 figures, when taking into account the divestments.
The merger as initially proposed would have harmed consumers and farmers by eliminating competition, the DOJ said. However, the Trump administration is satisfied with the terms of the settlement announced Tuesday.
“America’s farm system is of critical importance to our economy, to our food system, and to our way of life,” said Makan Delrahim, head of the DOJ’s antitrust division. “American farmers and consumers rely on head-to-head competition between Bayer and Monsanto.”
Last October, Bayer agreed to sell its Liberty herbicide brand, cotton and soybean seeds, and other seed capabilities to BASF SE, another German chemical corporation. That deal was worth €5.9 billion. Another sale to BASF was announced in April, with Bayer divesting of herbicides, wheat hybrids research and digital farming business that had combined sales amounting to €2.2 billion in 2017, according to Bloomberg.
EU regulators approved the merger in March.
Once combined, Bayer-Monsanto will be the world’s biggest agrochemical corporation, surpassing DowDuPont Inc. and China National, which acquired Syngenta AG last year.
Monsanto is the world’s leading producer of genetically modified (GMO) seeds, and has faced widespread criticism and protests over the effects its products have had on the environment and biodiversity. Roundup, Monsanto’s most popular herbicide, has been blamed for the collapse in the Monarch butterfly population as well as the “colony collapse disorder” decimating the honeybees in Europe and North America.
The company has also challenged scientific studies pointing to glyphosate, the neo-nicotinoid used in the Roundup family of herbicides, being a carcinogen.
Announcing the merger in 2016, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said there was an opportunity for both companies to “get beyond this image and reputation thing” by rebranding Monsanto.
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