In what is China’s biggest-yet foreign acquisition, state-owned ChemChina is set to acquire Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta.
The $43 billion cash deal with ChemChina, known officially as China National Chemical Corp., won about 82% approval from Syngenta shareholders. The takeover bid was first announced in February 2016, and is expected to close in late May or June 2017. Syngenta is the world leader in advanced insecticides, herbicides and other crop-protection products, and the third-largest seed producer.
China seeks to use Syngenta’s patent-protected seeds and chemical portfolio to improve its domestic agricultural output, according to Reuters. As Syngenta CEO Erik Fyrwald put it, “The reason for this deal was food security for China”. Fyrwald is an American agriculture executive who previously headed DuPont’s seed and agrochemicals business. While increasing domestic production and improving its technology, China seeks to decrease its reliance on foreign sources. Strategic acquisitions and other deals are likely to play a major role.
By acquiring Syngenta, ChemChina will benefit from the Swiss company’s global reach and more advanced products. Syngenta does substantial business in North America, Latin America and EMEA, and has less of a presence in Asia, where ChemChina can make up the difference. ChemChina’s presence in global agriculture, for the moment, is limited mostly to selling low-profit commodity agrochemicals. This will undoubtedly change dramatically with the Syngenta deal, which may not be the last from ChemChina, given CEO Ren Jianxin’s emphasis on acquisitions.
ChemChina’s takeover of Syngenta is seen as part of a global wave of consolidation in agriculture – one that includes America’s Dow Chemical merging with another American company, DuPont, and Germany’s Bayer potentially acquiring Monsanto. These mega-mergers, if completed, could have a resounding impact on the future of global agriculture, putting around 50% of the world’s commercial seed market under the control of a few multinationals.