Syngenta ready to play role in sector shake-up

Frankfurt | Reuters — Syngenta and other major seeds and crop chemicals companies are intensively discussing tie-ups, the Financial Times quoted the Swiss firm’s chairman as saying Wednesday, adding to a chorus of voices predicting a sector shake-up.

Conversations among the leading players in the industry are “extremely active,” the newspaper quoted Michel Demare as saying in an interview.

“We are all convinced that (the sector) will look quite different in six months.”

U.S. group Monsanto, which withdrew a proposal to take over Syngenta in August, said Tuesday its top executives were discussing whether they should acquire or merge with major rivals in the seed and agrochemical industries.

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The winning company in future will be one that can combine seeds and crop chemicals as part of an integrated offer, Demare said.

Syngenta is No. 1 in crop chemicals with a 19 per cent market share last year, just ahead of Bayer CropScience with 18 per cent.

Monsanto is the leader in seeds with a 26 per cent market share, followed by Dupont Pioneer’s 21 per cent.

Demare’s remarks echo those of Dupont interim CEO Edward Breen, who said last month the U.S. group was talking to rivals about its agriculture business.

That was less than a week after Dow announced a strategic review of its farm chemicals and seeds unit, ranked No. 4 and 7 respectively in those industries.

The idea of marketing large offerings of seeds and pesticides in a bundle, and even adding computer and satellite-guided farming solutions on top, has been promoted by Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer, among others.

But the major crop chemicals players, Syngenta and Bayer, have ruled themselves out as easy targets of seed makers.

Syngenta fiercely rebuffed Monsanto’s repeated overtures this year, while Bayer on Wednesday reaffirmed it would not part with its crop chemicals business, describing it as an “integral part” of the German healthcare group.

While some analysts have said weak third-quarter demand from farmers, due to faltering crop and grain prices, has prompted the race to bulk up, Syngenta’s Demare told the Financial Times that the current talks were fallout from Monsanto’s failed move.

“This is the result of the Monsanto approach for Syngenta, which for sure has shaken the whole industry… It has created the huge activity in which everyone is speaking to each other.”

Ludwig Burger is a senior Reuters correspondent in Frankfurt, covering corporate and company news.

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