The ink was not yet dry on the seemingly endless Monsanto-Syngenta on again/off again takeover drama, when moments ago in a shocking development the newswires were lit up with news that a new, and very much unexpected, bidder has emerged for the Swiss pesticides giant Syngenta: China National Chemical Corp, or ChemChina as it is known, which according to WSJ and BBG is set to pay $43.7 billion to acquire a piece of Swiss corporate history.
According to Bloomberg, China National Chemical Corp. is nearing an agreement to buy Syngenta for CHF 43.7 billion as the state-backed company extends its buying spree with what would be the biggest-ever acquisition by a Chinese firm, said people familiar with the matter.
ChemChina, as the closely-held company is known, offered about 470 francs a share in cash to acquire Syngenta and a deal could be announced as early as Wednesday when the Swiss company reports earnings, the people said, asking not to be named as the details aren’t public. That’s 24 percent higher than Syngenta’s last close of 378.40 francs on Feb. 1. Its shares rose 7.1 percent to 405.1 francs as of 1:26 p.m. in Zurich.
The deal would help Chairman Ren Jianxin transform ChemChina into the world’s biggest supplier of pesticides and agrochemicals, while snatching an asset coveted by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. It also underscores the importance China attaches to owning seed and cropcare technology that can boost agricultural output and help feed the world’s biggest population.
Bloomberg notes that if successful, the $43 billion purchase would be the largest acquisition by a Chinese firm, surpassing China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd.’s $29 billion purchase of China Netcom Group Corp. in 2008. It remains to be seen whether Europe's anti-trust authorities, let alone the Swiss, will greenlight such a massive incursion into the heart of corporate Europe. As a reminder, in recent year major Chinese purchases of both U.S. and Canada-based companies have been frowned upon. Perhaps Europe will decide that it is in its best interest to open its markets to the one country that suddenly is finding it needs to park "hot money" abroad and M&A is just the way to do it.