And soon there will be three. Joy of six heads towards a “ménage à trois”
For a decade, six multinationals have controlled 75% of the world’s high-tech seeds and pesticides businesses. Late last year, Dow and DuPont agreed to merge and now state-owned ChemChina is buying Syngenta for $43 billion. This means that Monsanto needs a merger to stay in the game. Or, is the game about to be called?
If regulators allow these two mergers to go through – and that’s by no means certain – then the Big Six will become a Fat Five: Dow-DuPont’s agribusiness spinoff (“Deep Doodoo”?) will lead the pack, followed by ChemChina – already #7 in global pesticides – and Syngenta, which is #1 in pesticides and # 3 in seeds (“Sino-genta”?). That leaves Monsanto in third position trailed by Bayer and BASF. Monsanto was repeatedly rebuffed by Syngenta, but it desperately needs to step up its pesticides game. Either one or both of Bayer and BASF could spin off their agricultural interests to Monsanto or one of the German Giants might put Monsanto out of its misery with a takeover. Another possibility is that one of the three huge farm machinery companies – most likely Deere & Company – rolls in and digs Monsanto out of its hole (“Demonsanto”?) because of synergies in their Big Data agricultural technologies. Business as usual is not an option.
Would national regulators step aside to watch 75% of global private sector agricultural research fall under the heel of five or fewer enterprises? Perhaps not if they realize that a third shoe is about to drop. The Dow – DuPont wedding is already raising hackles on both sides of the Atlantic. A ChemChina – Syngenta tryst is, arguably, of less concern since the Chinese company has a comparatively small footprint in agriculture. But once these deals are accepted, Monsanto might make a political case for following in their footsteps – claiming that they must either wed or walk. Allowing the first two mega-mergers, anti-combines offices may feel they have to accept a third.