Bayer Sweetens Monsanto Offer, Raising Per Share Price

Bayer AG (BAYRY) has raised its offer to buy Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MON) from its previous offer of $125 a share to $127.50 a share. The deal would create a global firm well positioned to help farmers around the world produce food for a growing population. Monsanto is currently the world’s largest supplier of crop seeds and genes. Representatives for Monsanto had no immediate comment on the proposed deal.

The deal would be the pharmaceutical giant’s biggest-ever acquisition. The original offer valued the company at $64 billion as of July 19. Bayer announced late Sunday that it was still in “advanced negotiations” with Monsanto. Bayer has been discussing a deal with Monsanto since mid-May. Any deal struck would be subject to regulatory approvals.

In July, Monsanto’s board unanimously rejected Bayer’s previous offer as too low. Some Monsanto shareholders say that Monsanto should seek a higher figure based on the long-term potential of some of its investments. Analysts report that around $135 to $140 a share may be a more realistic price. Monsanto shares closed on Friday at $107.44.

Werner Baumann took over as Bayer’s chief executive just weeks before the initial bid was launched. Mr. Baumann has faced pushback from some Bayer shareholders over the deal. Some have voiced concerns that Bayer is shifting its attention away from its pharma division.

Monsanto’s profits have come under pressure from the slumping farm economy. Record harvests have pushed down grain prices and forced farmers to reduce spending by switching to generic weedkillers, trading down to cheaper seeds, and putting off buying new machinery. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that this year U.S. farm incomes will hit their lowest point since 2009. Since the beginning of the downturn, Monsanto has laid off about 16 percent of its global workforce and canceled some research projects.

The downturn has sparked consolidations across the industry. DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. unveiled their own merger in December. That deal’s closing is likely in early 2017. Syngenta AG, another top seed and pesticide maker, is seeking a sale to China National Chemical Corp. for $43 billion. That deal received approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. last month.

Bayer is looking to create a new global leader in seeds and pesticides with the Monsanto deal. The acquisition would complement Bayer’s portfolio of pharmaceuticals, consumer health and animal health operations. How Bayer intends to finance the deal is unknown. Bayer had combined net debt and pension liabilities of $33.5 billion at the end of the first quarter.