Germany’s Bayer has offered to buy US seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion (55 billion euros) in cash.
Bayer – which makes medicines and crop chemicals – is pushing ahead with the deal despite criticism from some of its own shareholders, one of whom called it “arrogant empire-building”.
Bayer’s chief executive Werner Baumann believes going for the top spot in a fast-consolidating farm supplies industry makes sense.
He told reporters: “We are taking a big step with regard to our agricultural business. For more than 150 years, Bayer stood for innovation, science and responsibility for the people. The planned acquisition of Monsanto follows, in a very special way, this tradition.
Baumann continued: “Only through innovation will modern agriculture manage to feed an additional three billion people by 2050. This is one of the very big challenges of our time. We are convinced that the planned purchase of Monsanto will contribute to finding a solution for this challenge. Together we can ensure an increase of global food production despite ever more difficult cultivation and environmental conditions.”
He said he is confident the offer will be accepted: “We fully expect a positive answer of the Monsanto board of directors.”
Baumann, who took the helm at Bayer only three weeks earlier, described criticism from some investors as “an uneducated reaction in the media” that was driven by an element of surprise.
Monsanto has yet to comment on the offer beyond confirming it has been received.
Do the numbers add up?
The offer is 37 percent more than Monsanto’s closing share price on 9 May, before rumours of a bid emerged.
Analysts have said with other big players in the sector merging this move makes sense, but they point out the German firm’s current offer is already very high and may need to grow even more to succeed, at which point the economics become problematic.
Markus Manns, a fund manager at Union Investment which is Bayer’s 14th biggest investor, said: “The price that has now been disclosed is at the upper limit and it is just about economical. Should it rise further, which is to be assumed, the takeover will become increasingly unattractive.”
Shares in Bayer, which had already fallen 14 percent since rumours of a bid emerged last week, dropped by 5.7 percent on Monday.
Monsanto’s shares were up by close to five percent on Monday.