With the takeover of Monsanto, German chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer is forming a new agribusiness giant. That's good news, even though the deal carries some risks, writes Henrik Böhme.
The evil empire's new headquarters are in Leverkusen, an industrial city just north of Cologne in western Germany. That's certainly the way the takeover of US crop seed producer Monsanto by the German Bayer corporation will be interpreted.
Of course, Monsanto is known for its controversial and aggressive business practices, its genetically modified products and as the producer of the notorious pesticide Glyphosate, a chemical suspected of causing cancer. However, it is legal to use the pesticide in the European Union. But from now on, critics of a rampant global agribusiness industry can direct their anger right outside Bayer's factory gates in Leverkusen.
Global number one
The world's biggest producer of crop seeds and pesticides will be headquartered there in the future. It has been the ambitious goal of Bayer CEO Werner Baumann, who will only stay on the job for another six months, to become the global number one in the industry. To achieve this objective, the people in charge at Bayer were willing to dig deep into the company's pockets. The $66 billion (58.8 billion euro) acquisition is not only a very big deal, it is also the biggest all-cash company takeover bid in history.
Usually, when deals of this magnitude happen, they are stock-for-stock mergers, which means the companies swap their shares. But the Monsanto takeover is not only the biggest all-cash acquisition, it is also the biggest takeover by a German company and it is the biggest deal of the year so far.
But is this deal really a good deal, considering the hefty pricetag? Buying a company with such a bad guy-image and paying such an enormous amount of money - in cash? It is clear that Bayer has to generate a lot of revenue to make back this amount of money in the future because Bayer does not have billions of dollars in cash like Apple.
But isn't the deal positive news for Germany as a business location after all? The fact that a German blue chip company is going to become the global leader in its industry? There could have been a completely different outcome of the global agribusiness reshuffle: Bayer's Swiss competitor Syngenta is just in the process of being swallowed by the Chinese.
What will we eat tomorrow?
The future of agriculture is digital; "digital farming" is the buzzword. As the world population grows inexorably, more and more mouths have to be fed. And this has to be accomplished with climate change endangering and even destroying harvests in many regions of the world.
It should be allowed to think about new ways to cultivate crops and produce food. Now that Bayer is in control of Monsanto, with headquarters in a country that essentially prohibits genetic engineering, it may have consequences for the portfolio of this new giant. By pooling the resources of Bayer and Monsanto, however, the new company may even find better answers when it comes to feeding billions of people without completely depleting our planet. In that case, every single billion spent on this acquisition would have been worth it.
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