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What $62 Billion In Cash Could Buy You: Monsanto

A farmer holds Monsanto's Roundup Ready Soy Bean seeds at his family farm in Bunceton, Mo. Monsanto has been both celebrated and reviled for its genetically altered seed business.
A farmer holds Monsanto's Roundup Ready Soy Bean seeds at his family farm in Bunceton, Mo. Monsanto has been both celebrated and reviled for its genetically altered seed business.

Pharmaceutical giant Bayer has launched a $62 billion bid for seed seller Monsanto in what some news reports say would be the largest-ever German takeover of a foreign company.

Bayer's all-cash offer is 37 percent higher than Monsanto's stock price before news broke about the possible deal.

Bayer has been selling aspirin for more than 100 years. A researcher at the company discovered aspirin's active ingredient, acetylsalicylic acid, in 1897.
Mike Derer / AP
Bayer has been selling aspirin for more than 100 years. A researcher at the company discovered aspirin's active ingredient, acetylsalicylic acid, in 1897.

"This transaction represents a compelling opportunity for Monsanto's shareholders," Bayer CEO Werner Baumann told reporters on a conference call Monday.

St. Louis-based Monsanto said in a statement that its board is reviewing the offer but will make no further comment until it has completed the review.

Many people might know Bayer best for its bottles of the old-school pain reliever Bayer aspirin on drugstore shelves. But the company is a German pharmaceutical and chemical powerhouse with 102,000 employees and $41 billion in revenue last year. Like Monsanto, it sells agricultural products such as seeds and pesticides. That's in addition to a plastics business, diagnostic imaging products, health products for animals and a biotech division.

If Bayer buys Monsanto, the world's largest producer of genetically modified crops, its reputation in Europe could take a hit since there has been strong resistance to the use of GMO crops in farming.

The deal would be part of a wave of consolidation across the agrichemical industry — in part due to increased pressure on profits from lower commodity prices around the world. For example, ChemChina is close to buying Switzerland's Syngenta for $43 billion. Dow Chemical and DuPont also are looking to merge.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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