The European Union’s executive commission announced an investigation Tuesday into pharmaceutical giant Bayer’s $66 billion takeover of U.S. seed manufacturer Monsanto.
The European Commission, concerned with potential antitrust aspects of the deal, gave a minimum deadline of Jan. 8, 2018, to complete the review.
“The commission has preliminary concerns that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition in a number of different markets resulting in higher prices, lower quality, less choice and less innovation,” the European Commission said in a statement.
The merger of Germany-based Bayer and Monsanto would create the world’s largest integrated pesticides and seeds company. It would also be the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a German firm, ahead of Daimler AG’s $40 billion purchase of Chrysler in 1998.
“Both companies are active in developing new products in these areas,” a European Union news release said. “The transaction would take place in industries that are already globally concentrated, as illustrated by the recent mergers of Dow and Dupont and Syngenta and ChemChina, in which the Commission intervened to protect competition for the benefit of farmers and consumers.”
The commission said its three areas of concern are pesticides, seeds and plant traits.
“We need to ensure effective competition so that farmers can have access to innovative products, better quality and also purchase products at competitive prices,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said in a statement.
Last month, Bayer and Monsanto submitted commitments to the EU in a bid to win approval, according to the regulator. But those were “insufficient to clearly dismiss [the EU’s] serious doubts as to the transaction’s compatibility with the EU merger regulation. The commission therefore did not test them with market participants.”
The commission said it is cooperating with with the U.S. Department of Justice, and the antitrust authorities of Australia, Brazil, Canada and South Africa.
“Bayer believes that the proposed combination will be highly beneficial for farmers and consumers, and will continue to work closely and constructively with the European Commission in its investigation,” the company said in a statement. “Bayer looks forward to continuing to work constructively with the Commission with a view to obtaining the Commission’s approval of the transaction by the end of this year.”
Monsanto had declined two previous offers by Bayer last year for the takeover. On Dec. 13, its stock shareholders approved the $66 billion offer.
Nineteen Democratic U.S. senators told the Justice Department last month it should “conduct a thorough and impartial analysis” of the merger.
By Allen Cone