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Brazilian antitrust agency approves Bayer-Monsanto tie-up

(Dave Bedard photo)

Brasilia | Reuters — Brazilian antitrust agency Cade on Wednesday approved Bayer’s proposed takeover of U.S. seeds company Monsanto without requiring further asset sales beyond a global proposal announced last October.

Cade’s commissioners voted 4-2 in favour of the tie-up under an agreement, negotiated between the companies and global antitrust agencies, that included the sale of several of Bayer’s assets to BASF.

Approval of the transaction in Brazil, a powerhouse producer of grains and other agricultural commodities, clears a crucial hurdle for the deal, which the companies initially aimed to have approved by the end of 2017.

The transaction, valued at US$66 billion when announced in September 2016, would create the world’s largest seeds and pesticides company. The value of the deal has since been revised to $63.5 billion as Monsanto reduced its debt load.

The companies are waiting for approval of the deal in jurisdictions including the European Union and the U.S., where final rulings are still pending.

In Brazil, the transaction faced fierce opposition from soy and cotton growers as well as seed producers who thought it would give the combining companies excessive market power.

Rachel Mendonca, an attorney who represented three associations against the deal, highlighted Cade’s imposition of limits on licensing and sales practices by the new company, but conceded she had lost the argument for more asset sales in Brazil.

Earlier this week, Bayer said in a statement it had proposed solutions to allay antitrust concerns in the EU. Bayer had agreed to sell seed and herbicide businesses to BASF for 5.9 billion euros (C$9.03 billion). It emerged this week the offer would also involve divestments of vegetable seeds business in some EU countries, a source familiar with the matter said.

Most of Cade’s board said those measures would be enough to address antitrust concerns laid out by its technical staff in October, when it recommended the deal be blocked or approved with conditions.

Reporting for Reuters by Bruno Federowski and Leonardo Goy; additional reporting by Ana Mano in Sao Paulo.

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