• `Critical' group surveyed members, institutional investors
  • Group formed in October after rejection of Monsanto approach

A group of Syngenta AG shareholders lobbying management to talk to suitors said a poll of its members and institutional investors showed they broadly support a sale of the Swiss pesticide maker.

Of the 112 respondents to the survey, which also included sell-side analysts, 79 percent said they supported a sale of the Basel-based company, the Alliance of Critical Syngenta Shareholders said in a statement on its website on Friday. The group was formed in October after Syngenta rejected a $47 billion approach from Monsanto Co. of the U.S.

The agrochemicals industry is consolidating and leading suppliers are jockeying for positions. China National Chemical Corp. Chairman Ren Jianxin met with Syngenta in Europe last week as the Chinese chemical firm weighs a takeover plan, people familiar with the matter said this week. Monsanto is considering whether to make another attempt to buy Syngenta, Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann said last month. Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. last week announced plans to merge in the largest ever deal in the chemicals industry.

“Syngenta’s strategic direction is deeply flawed,” the shareholders’ group said Friday. Investor concerns “extend to the board room” which isn’t representing their interests. Of the 112 respondents, 88 are members of the alliance, while the sample represents 10 percent of Syngenta’s share capital and a fifth of institutional investors, ACSS said.

In response, Syngenta said in its own statement to the media that it has met with shareholders representing 45 percent of its share capital in recent weeks “as it works relentlessly to evaluate its long term strategic options.”

The ACSS survey is not constructive and “risks undermining actions that are already underway,” the company said.

Separately, Syngenta interim Chief Executive Officer John Ramsay was cited by The Wall Street Journal as saying the company is discussing possible deals with a number of parties and Monsanto hasn’t revived its takeover effort.

Syngenta’s shares ended 0.9 percent higher at 374.50 Swiss francs in Zurich, valuing the company at 35 billion francs ($35 billion).

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