Bayer CEO Confident Monsanto Acquisition Will Close by End of Year

The chief executive of German chemical conglomerate Bayer AG said Wednesday that he was confident the company’s planned $57 billion acquisition of U.S. seed maker Monsanto Co. would overcome any regulatory obstacles and close by the end of the year, despite delays with U.S. and European antitrust authorities.

Werner Baumann, speaking at the company’s annual earnings conference, said Bayer was in the process of responding to a second request for information from the U.S. Department of Justice. He also said the company had pushed back plans to officially file for regulatory approval with the European Commission to the second quarter of this year following a request by officials for new documents on the transaction.

“We remain confident that we will be granted all the necessary clearances,” Mr. Baumann said. “It’s not very much of a delay. This is perfectly normal,” he added.

Bayer filed for approval with the Justice Department at the end of 2016 and had initially planned to file with the EC during the first quarter of this year. The company has already applied for clearance from around two-thirds of roughly 30 national regulatory agencies, the company said.

The planned acquisition of Monsanto comes amid weak market conditions and a wave of consolidation in the global agrochemical industry. A merger between Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co., as well as China National Chemical Corp.’s takeover of Swiss pesticide maker Syngenta AG are also under regulatory review by U.S. and European officials.

Those deals are further along in the regulatory process and decisions on them could influence regulators’ view of Bayer’s bid for Monsanto, experts say.

The transaction would create the world’s No. 1 supplier by sales of both seeds and pesticides, creating a “one-stop solution for farmers” that regulators could see as undermining competition, Ioannis Lianos, a professor and head of global competition law and public policy at University College London, said recently.

However, the deal received a boost after Mr. Baumann and Monsanto Chief Executive Hugh Grant met with then President-elect Donald Trump at the beginning of January. The Trump team–which has in the past spoken out against foreign takeovers of U.S. companies and megamergers in general–has since touted the deal and Mr. Baumann’s apparent commitment to create new American jobs.

Mr. Trump’s seeming support for the deal has buoyed investors.

Mr. Baumann on Wednesday called the meeting with Mr. Trump “constructive” but said he had not been in touch with the president since then. He also suggested he did not agree with Mr. Trump’s stand on trade and globalization. Limiting free trade makes “losers” out of all parties involved, he said.

The CEO’s comments came as Bayer reported a 26% decline in net profit from a year earlier, squeezed by one-time expenses for impairments and litigation, even as it set out ambitious targets for this year.

Net profit fell to EUR453 million ($477.3 million) in the three months to end-December from EUR613 million in the same period a year earlier. Analysts had predicted quarterly net profit of EUR712 million, according to a recent poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal.

The German company booked impairment charges of EUR170 million in connection with its implantable contraceptive product Essure, which has faced lawsuits and scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over safety concerns. The company also took impairment charges of EUR160 million related to the integration of acquired over-the-counter drug businesses.

Nonetheless, Bayer said it expected sales to increase to more than EUR49 billion this year from EUR46.77 billion in 2016.

Source: Dow Jones 

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