ChemChina's Syngenta swoop: a 12-year crush, a 12-month courtship

Thu Feb 4, 2016 5:29am EST
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By Chen Aizhu and Freya Berry

BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) - A frenetic year of negotiations and setbacks preceded China National Chemical Corp's (ChemChina) blockbuster $43 billion bid for Swiss seeds and pesticides giant Syngenta.

But state-owned ChemChina boss Ren Jianxin's dream of snapping up either Syngenta or its U.S. rival Dow Chemical Co goes back much further - to just after his firm was officially established in 2004.

"We've been following Syngenta from shortly after the group was founded, scouting for co-operation projects and joint venture opportunities," said one veteran ChemChina staff member.

"To ChemChina, Syngenta and Dow were goddesses that we hoped one day we could win."

For more than a decade, such aspirations were unaffordable for ChemChina and unappealing for Syngenta. Ren spent those years though developing a strong relationship with Mike Mack who, until last October, was Syngenta's chief executive.

Ren's canny relationship-building came into its own a year ago, when the Swiss firm found itself the subject of hostile bids from U.S. rival Monsanto.

"When it became clear that Syngenta was under attack from Monsanto, ChemChina called them up and asked if they should play the white knight," said one adviser on the deal.

ChemChina mandated HSBC to work with them on a possible approach and while Syngenta was rebuffing Monsanto, it was drawing up ideas with its Chinese counterpart on what they could do together.   Continued...

A woman checks her phone at the headquarters of China National Chemical Corporation in Beijing, July 20, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer