Exclusive: Monsanto says any hostile bid for Syngenta some way off

Fri Jul 17, 2015 1:56pm EDT
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By P.J. Huffstutter

ST. LOUIS, MO (Reuters) - Any hostile bid by Monsanto Co for Swiss rival Syngenta AG is some way off, the U.S. seed company's president and chief operating officer told Reuters, adding he was focused on trying to secure a negotiated deal.

Monsanto, the world's biggest seed company, is keen to know more about Syngenta's research capabilities, product liability exposure and the quality of its reported sales, Brett Begemann said in an interview.

So taking an offer directly to Syngenta shareholders, without seeing the Swiss company's books, was "not a very compelling idea," Begemann said.

"It’s too early to say (we’ve) ruled it out," he added, but any hostile bid was "a ways out yet."

Syngenta has rejected a $45 billion bid proposal and refused to open its books, despite the offer of a $2 billion cash payment should Monsanto examine its business and decide not to proceed with a transaction.

Earlier this month, Monsanto executives toured Europe to make their case to Syngenta investors and have now met "the vast majority" of its 20 largest shareholders, Begemann said.

Monsanto officials declined to comment on how many of those shareholders had committed to back its pursuit of talks with Syngenta's board.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Henderson Global Investors, a leading Syngenta investor, had criticized the Swiss company's board for excluding all but "a very small group" of shareholders from talks that could determine the fate of Monsanto’s proposal.   Continued...

Swiss agrochemicals maker Syngenta's logo is seen at the company's headquarters in Basel  February 4, 2015.    REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann