EU clears ChemChina’s Syngenta takeover, with conditions

Brussels | Reuters –– ChemChina won conditional EU antitrust approval on Wednesday for its US$43 billion bid for Swiss pesticides and seeds group Syngenta, a deal that could help China boost its domestic agricultural output.

The deal is one of several reshaping the agricultural chemicals and seeds market, even as these deals trigger fears among some farmers that bigger, more powerful suppliers could be better placed to push up prices and economize on developing new herbicides and pesticides.

Reuters reported on Feb. 2 that the deal, the largest foreign acquisition by a Chinese company, would be cleared with conditions.

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The European Commission said planned asset sales would address its competition concerns.

“It is important for European farmers and ultimately consumers that there will be effective competition in pesticide markets, also after ChemChina’s acquisition of Syngenta,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

ChemChina will sell a large chunk of its subsidiary Adama’s pesticide, herbicides and insecticides business, its seed treatment products for cereals and sugar beet and a substantial part of its plant growth regulator business for cereals.

American Vanguard (Amvac) said it struck a deal with Adama to acquire three crop protection product lines, without disclosing financial terms.

Bernstein Research analyst Jeremy Redenius said that since Adama focuses on established crop chemicals that have lost patent protection, potential buyers of other assets would likely be from the same industry segment, such as FMC, Nufarm and Sumitomo Chemical.

Redenius added that BASF was unlikely to bid due to its focus on patented substances.

BASF and FMC declined to comment. Australia’s Nufarm and Japan’s Sumitomo were not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.

Syngenta said the EU’s go-ahead was a major step toward closing the transaction, expected in the second quarter of 2017.

Some of Syngenta’s pesticides will also be put on the block. The world No. 1 pesticides maker sells its products in more than 90 countries under such brand names as Acuron, Axial, Beacon and Callisto. It sells seeds such as cereals, corn, rice, soybeans and vegetables.

U.S. antitrust authorities also nodded the deal through on Tuesday on condition ChemChina divests three products. Canada’s Competition Bureau signed off on the deal in February.

According to a Syngenta spokesperson, the last remaining countries to provide regulatory clearance on the deal include China, India and Mexico.

The EU’s approval came a week after it cleared the US$130 billion Dow Chemical and DuPont merger in return for hefty asset sales, including global research and development facilities.

— Foo Yun Chee is a Reuters correspondent covering competition issues from Brussels. Additional reporting for Reuters by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt.

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