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Monsanto shareholders approve sale to Bayer

Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto shareholders have approved Bayer’s roughly $65 billion acquisition of the seed giant.

The company said 99 percent of shareholders present Tuesday morning in Chesterfield voted in favor of the $128 per share deal and that 75 percent of all shareholders attended the special meeting.

“It was overwhelming support,” said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant in a phone interview with St. Louis Public Radio.

Bayer’s shareholders do not need to vote on the acquisition, and the regulatory process now will move forward. Bayer will be filing for anti-trust approval in the U.S. this month and in Europe beginning early next year.

Grant said he’s confident the deal will get over the regulatory hurdles.

“Bayer is very strong in chemistry and Monsanto, over the last 15 years, has become very strong in seeds and biotechnology, and the overlap between the companies is therefore very small,” he said. “I think that drives my confidence in getting this deal done and it’s what makes the deal so unique, as well.”

Bayer has said it expects to find $1.5 billion in synergies once the acquisition is complete, which is expected by the end of next year. The German chemicals company also has said it will locate its seeds and traits division in St. Louis, as well as its North American headquarters, alleviating some concerns about area jobs.

Employees at Bayer’s Crop Science Division in Raleigh, North Carolina, are expected to be moved to St. Louis, even though the German company has stated it will have key locations in North Carolina, California, Germany and St. Louis. In a potential sign of a continuing significant presence in the region, the $400 million expansion of the Chesterfield Village Research Center will move forward.

Grant said there have not been specific discussions about jobs yet, but he expects investment in research and development to grow once the acquisition is completed.

“I think for seeds and biotechnology St. Louis becomes not just a hub for that work in the U.S., but I think St. Louis becomes a hub for the globe,” he said.

The deal is expected to create the world’s largest seeds and pesticides company.

It also follows a consolidation trend in the global agricultural sector. DuPont and Dow Chemical are merging, which will result in three spin-off companies, including one focusing on agriculture.

Syngenta is being taken over by China National Chemical Corp. after rejecting overtures last year from Monsanto.

The Monsanto-Bayer tie-up could also lead to a new name for the U.S.-based company that has ties to St. Louis reaching back to 1901. Nothing was said about a potential name change after Tuesday’s shareholders vote, but when the deal was announced in September both CEOs were open to the idea.

“We have said in the past, as we've looked at previous transactions, that would be something we'd be flexible on,” Grant said at the time.

“Rest assured that we will pay utmost attention to that question,” echoed Bayer CEO Werner Baumann.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.