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Chinese-owned Syngenta appeals Italy's veto of seed producer deal - sources

Chinese-owned Syngenta appeals Italy's veto of seed producer deal - sources
Chinese-owned Syngenta appeals Italy's veto of seed producer deal - sources   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters

By Giuseppe Fonte and Giselda Vagnoni

ROME – Chinese-owned agrochemicals giant Syngenta has appealed to an administrative court after Rome blocked its attempt to buy Italian vegetable seed producer Verisem, two sources close to the matter told Reuters.

The move highlights the risk of legal disputes arising from Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s push to curb Chinese corporate bids in the country, using Rome’s so-called “golden power” legislation designed to defend strategic assets.

To reduce these litigation risks, the government is considering offering compensation to firms penalised by the use of the anti-takeover rules, Reuters reported last month.

Draghi blocked the Verisem takeover in October. It was the second of three occasions during his 11-month-old government when he has used the golden power to ward off undesired bids in industries such as telecoms, energy and agrifood.

Italian agriculture lobby Coldiretti said Sygenta’s move would have shifted to Asia the world’s strategic balance in the control of seeds for vegetable and herb production.

Verisem participated in the appeal as a co-plaintiff, the sources said, asking not to be named. Verisem was not immediately available for comment.

One of them said the two companies accuse the government of “unjustifiably” rejecting steps they had taken to ensure the terms of the takeover would preserve Italian strategic interests.

In another case last year LPE, a Milan-based producer of semi-conductor equipment, also appealed after Rome prevented it from being acquired by Chinese company Shenzhen Invenland Holdings Co Ltd.

Switzerland-based Syngenta was bought in 2017 for $43 billion by ChemChina, which was folded into Sinochem Holdings Corp earlier this year. The group had offered around 200 million euros ($226.1 million) to buy Verisem, sources have told Reuters.

Put on sale by U.S. fund Paine Schwarts and Partners, Verisem describes itself on its website as a global seed producer with processing facilities in Italy, France and North America.

The golden power applies to attempts by non-EU groups and – under a temporary framework which Rome extended last month until the end of this year – EU suitors to buy strategic companies, including banks and insurers.

($1 = 0.8846 euros)