Monsanto's (MON) attempt to purchase rival Syngenta (SYT) for $46.6 billion last August planted the seed for consolidation in the chemical-agribusiness sector that is now blooming.
Late Wednesday, Monsanto announced that German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer AG (BAYRY) made an unsolicited non-binding bid for the St Louis-based company. While the terms of the bid were not disclosed, Citi analysts have said Bayer would probably need between 14 and 16 times Monsanto's core earnings, implying a takeover price including debt between 57 billion and 65 billion euros, according to Reuters. Analysts at Bernstein estimated the buying price to be as much as $125 per share, or a 29% premium on Monsanto's Wednesday closing price.
Bayer is considering asset disposals and a share sale in order to help finance the deal, according to Farm Futures sources. The company is also considering exiting its animal-health business and its remaining 69% stake in plastics business Covestro AG.
Bayer investors seemed tepid about the amount of debt the company would have to take on to complete its purchase of Monsanto, sending the stock down nearly 9% on heavy volume. Meanwhile, Monsanto shares were up 5% on heavy volume.
If Monsanto reaches a deal with Bayer, or any of the other parties interested in purchasing the company, the merger would be the latest in a line of agribusiness/chemical deals, though the situations surrounding the tie-ups differ.
Last week, Action Alerts PLUS holding Dow Chemical (DOW) and DuPont (DD) submitted Form 425 to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a mandatory form for companies that intend to merge. The two companies first announced their $68.6 billion tie-up in December 2015.
In February, Chinese government-owned company China National Chemical (ChemChina) came to acquisition terms with Syngenta for $43 billion. If approved, the acquisition would represent the largest foreign takeover by a Chinese company.
"We are concerned about the need to increase global crop yield while conserving scarce natural resources," ChemChina Chairman Ren Jianxin said in a video posted to the company's website. He added that the merger would provide growth opportunity in China, "where there is rapid modernization driven by the need to increase grain productivity and increase food quality."
Monsanto has struggled over the past 12 months, falling more than 15% in that period. In March, the company cut its 2016 earnings forecast due to economic headwinds, including the drop in global crop prices and a strengthening U.S. dollar. The company said it expects to earn between $4.40 and $5.10 per share in 2016, down from its previous view of $5.10 to $5.60 per share.
That is in addition to the 3,600 employees -- about 16% of its global workforce -- it said that it plans to lay off.
Dow, on the other hand, just had another great quarter, reporting top- and bottom-line beats. The company's earnings per share grew for the 14th consecutive quarter to $0.89 per share. Meanwhile, DuPont shares are down more than 4% year to date, but have rallied nearly 20% from their late January low of $51.46. The stock was down 0.3% to $63.81 in afternoon trading Thursday.
Whether it's a Chinese company looking to snatch up foreign assets, or two companies with strong foundations combining, or a German company taking advantage of the sales struggles of the world's largest seed company, the top chemical and seed companies are consolidating. What the sector looks like following this consolidation remains to be seen, but, barring regulatory hurdles, the sector will not look the same when the dust settles.