By: Chad Bray
LONDON — The Swiss agricultural and chemical giant Syngenta said on Thursday that it planned to divest itself of its global vegetable seed business and buy back shares as it sought to reassure shareholders after rejecting an attempted takeover by its American rival, Monsanto.
Last month, Monsanto said it was abandoning a $47 billion takeover bid for Syngenta after the company rebuffed its latest offer.
Syngenta, which is based in Basel, Switzerland, rejected several takeover approaches from Monsanto this year. Syngenta said the latest offer significantly undervalued the company and was “fraught with execution risk.”
The proposed deal, which was made public in May, would have created an agricultural behemoth. Monsanto had said it will sell Syngenta’s seed business and other overlapping businesses to appease regulators. It also offered to pay a $3 billion breakup fee if regulators rejected the deal.
Syngenta, however, emphatically opposed the deal, citing what it called the offer’s undervaluation of Syngenta. Also, its board believed that the bid did not properly account for the risk that regulators would scuttle the deal.
Despite that, shareholders had appeared open to continuing negotiations, but Monsanto dropped its pursuit.
A survey of former and current Syngenta shareholders by Sanford C. Bernstein & Company had found overwhelming support for efforts to seek a better offer from Monsanto. The average acceptable price per share for these investors was 473 Swiss francs, or $490 — only slightly more than the amount offered in Monsanto’s most recent bid, according to the survey.
The vegetable seed unit accounted for $663 million in sales in 2014. The overall seed business, which covers corn, soybeans and other field crops, posted sales of $3.16 billion last year.
“The board and management are determined to accelerate shareholder value creation, and our actions today underpin our commitment to do so,” Michel Demaré, the Syngenta chairman, said in a news release.
Syngenta said that it intended to “return significant levels of capital to shareholders” through the repurchase of more than $2 billion in shares through a buyback program.
The company said it expected its global vegetable seed business to “attract significant third-party interest.”
Syngenta also manufactures insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. The company reported sales of $15.1 billion in 2014 and has more than 28,000 employees in 90-some countries.
“By demonstrating and unlocking the inherent worth of our leading global seeds portfolio, we can create significant additional value” for shareholders, Michael Mack, the Syngenta chief executive, said in a news release.
Shares of Syngenta rose 2 percent to close at $69.09 in trading in New York on Thursday.
Originally Published: The New York Times