Monsanto CEO Says Investors Impatient for Syngenta Talks

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Monsanto Co. Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said there’s increasing impatience among Syngenta investors about the Swiss pesticide maker’s refusal to engage in takeover negotiations.

“There’s a crescendo of growing impatience on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said Friday in an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “My end goal is to drive engagement.”

Grant returned last week from Europe where he said he met with about 75 investors to promote his unsolicited $45 billion bid for Syngenta. The CEO said he’s “reinvigorated” by the “uniform” support from shareholders, which has convinced him that the Swiss company will eventually come to the table.

“There are two outcomes in this: ’No’ means ’no,’ and ’no’ means ’yes,’” Grant said. “I think it’s ’no’ with an embedded ’yes.’”

Spokesmen for Syngenta didn’t return calls for comment.

St. Louis-based Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, has approached Syngenta, the biggest pesticide maker, about a deal three times since 2011. Its most recent proposal, a cash-and-stock bid, was made in April. The Swiss company has said the offer is too low and faces risks from antitrust regulators.

U.K. money manager Henderson Group Plc sent a letter to Syngenta accusing the company of being “short-sighted” for refusing to talk directly with Monsanto or most of its biggest investors about the offer.

‘Clunky’

Syngenta Chairman Michel Demare addressed investors in a YouTube video last month.

“I think it’s a very clunky way of behaving,” Grant said. “This public stance and this reticence undermines their credibility.”

Grant said he’s not an advocate of hostile bids and plans to continue taking his case for buyout talks to Syngenta investors. He said he’s hiring proxy solicitors in the U.S. and Europe to “identify additional tranches” of shareowners.

“We just need to keep painting the picture of what we see for the future,” Grant said. “I feel as if I’m about halfway through this step in the process.”

Investors probably will ask Syngenta to spell out a strategy for boosting the value of the company to be at least on par with Monsanto’s offer, Grant said. The Basel, Switzerland-based company has scheduled a July 23 conference call to discuss first-half earnings.

Monsanto has offered 449 Swiss francs a share for Syngenta, a 43 percent premium to the share price at the close on April 30, just before Bloomberg News first reported the bid.

Monsanto, which would divest Syngenta’s seed business to address antitrust concerns, has proposed to pay a $2 billion reverse break-up fee if the deal is blocked by regulators.

On Friday, Syngenta fell 0.2 percent to close at 407 Swiss francs. The shares have gained 29 percent since Monsanto’s approach became public.

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