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Syngenta Talks to Monsanto, ChemChina, others: Chairman in Paper

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on December 23, 2015 - 9:23pm

Swiss agrichemicals group Syngenta is in talks with Monsanto, ChemChina and other rivals but has not received a concrete takeover offer and is keeping all options open, Chairman Michel Demare told a Swiss newspaper.

"Given what shareholders expect for the next 12 months, going it alone is hardly possible," he told Finanz und Wirtschaft in an interview published on its website, noting market dynamics had changed since the start of the year.

The seeds and crop industry is undergoing a major shake-up, with DuPont and Dow Chemical Co announcing an all-stock merger valued at $130 billion this month.

Demare said Syngenta's board, which this year rebuffed a takeover offer from U.S. group Monsanto, was considering making an acquisition, merging with a rival or selling the company. He declined to say which option he preferred.

Syngenta could steam ahead under its own power were there more patience to wait for a cyclical upswing, he said, but it was unable to meet shareholders' expectations in the short term. Sector consolidation was also heaping pressure on it to act.

Asked if Syngenta was in talks with ChemChina and Monsanto, he said: "Yes, but not just these two." He did not mention names of any others.

Demare said Syngenta had not got a concrete offer but was in advanced, formal and intense negotiations. "Things are moving. Something can happen at any time," he said, although it would take weeks to agree on the value and principles of a deal and months to agree on final details.

Asked about an offer of 470 Swiss francs per share, which Monsanto proposed earlier this year, he said: "An offer price has to be measured against our share price without any latent takeover fantasies. And I believe such a price would be closer to our ideas."

The stock closed up 2.1 percent at 384.10 francs, off a year high at 435.20 in May, giving it a market capitalization of around 36.5 billion Swiss francs ($37 billion).

He declined to be drawn on the relative merits of deals with Monsanto or ChemChina but when pressed said any deal with a Chinese rival offered upside potential given China's need for food security and technology.

"China is a serious partner and has to be taken into consideration. The Chinese have made big takeovers in the West, mostly successful, as the examples of Volvo and Lenovo show. We view ChemChina with the same seriousness as Monsanto, Bayer or BASF."

He said 2016 would be another tough year given low commodity prices and weak investment by farmers but stuck to the group's 2018 margin targets. "We are working hard on our savings program. We will be able to show margin improvement this year, perhaps as the only one in the sector."

Demare said Syngenta had concluded a deal was necessary after Monsanto's approach, not just with the DuPont-Dow tie-up.

"A combination with DuPont would have made a lot of sense for us, but unfortunately that is off the table now," he said.

Demare again said Monsanto had failed to address questions that would have let any deal advance but acknowledged Syngenta could have done a better job communicating with investors.

(Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by David Evans and Jane Merriman)

Originally Published: Reuters

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