By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – ChemChina [CNNCC.UL] won conditional EU antitrust approval on Wednesday for its $43 billion bid for Swiss pesticides and seeds group Syngenta <SYNN.S>, a deal that could help China boost its domestic agricultural output.
The deal is one of several reshaping the agricultural chemicals and seeds market, even as these deals trigger fears among some farmers that bigger, more powerful suppliers could be better placed to push up prices and economize on developing new herbicides and pesticides.
Reuters reported on Feb. 2 that the deal, the largest foreign acquisition by a Chinese company, would be cleared with conditions.
The European Commission said planned asset sales would address its competition concerns.
“It is important for European farmers and ultimately consumers that there will be effective competition in pesticide markets, also after ChemChina’s acquisition of Syngenta,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
Syngenta shares were trading up 1.1 percent after the clearance was announced.
ChemChina will sell a large chunk of its subsidiary Adama’s pesticide, herbicides and insecticides business, its seed treatment products for cereals and sugar beet and a substantial part of its plant growth regulator business for cereals.
American Vanguard said it struck a deal with Adama to acquire three crop protection product lines, without disclosing financial terms.
Bernstein Research analyst Jeremy Redenius said that since Adama focuses on established crop chemicals that have lost patent protection, potential buyers of other assets would likely be from the same industry segment, such as FMC Corp <FMC.N>, Nufarm <NUF.AX> and Sumitomo Chemical <4005.T>.
Redenius added that BASF <BASFn.DE> was unlikely to bid due to its focus on patented substances.
BASF and FMC declined to comment. Australia’s Nufarm and Japan’s Sumitomo were not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.
Syngenta said the EU’s go-ahead was a major step toward closing the transaction, expected in the second quarter of 2017.
Some of Syngenta’s pesticides will also be put on the block. The world No. 1 pesticides maker sells its products in more than 90 countries under such brand names as Acuron, Axial, Beacon and Callisto. It sells seeds such as cereals, corn, rice, soybeans and vegetables.
U.S. antitrust authorities nodded the deal through on Tuesday on condition ChemChina divests three products.
The EU approval came a week after it cleared the $130 billion Dow Chemical <DOW.N> and DuPont <DD.N> merger in return for hefty asset sales, including global research and development facilities.
(Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and David Holmes)