Commission conditionally approves acquisition of Monsanto's sunflower seed business by Syngenta

The Commission has approved the purchase of US based Monsanto’s sunflower seed business by Swiss company Syngenta, subject to conditions. The proposed transaction combines two leading European suppliers of sunflower seed. Both companies are active in the breeding and trading of new sunflower seed varieties (sunflower hybrid seeds (Hybrid(s)) and parental lines (Parental Lines)) and in the commercialisation of Hybrids. The transaction did not initially qualify for review under the EU Merger Regulation as it did not meet the turnover thresholds, however the Spanish and Hungarian competition authorities requested the Commission examine the transaction.

The Commission’s Phase II investigation (commenced on 21 June 2010) confirmed that with regard to the commercialisation of sunflower seeds in Spain and Hungary, the transaction would remove a major competitor to Syngenta, the current market leader. The transaction also raised licensing concerns in relation to the availability of different varieties of sunflower seeds because the merged firm would have sufficient power to restrict competitors' access to key inputs necessary for the commercialisation of sunflower seeds.

Syngenta agreed to divest the Monsanto Hybrids that had been commercialised in Hungary and in Spain over the last two years and also the Hybrids currently under trial for registration in these same countries. Syngenta also committed to divest Monsanto’s Parental Lines which had been used to develop these Hybrids and the Parental Lines currently under development in the affected markets. Further, the remedies package also included the granting of a right to use, cross, breed and licence the divested Parental Lines, and to commercialise and licence the resulting Hybrids. The geographic scope of the rights to commercialise the Hybrids varies depending on the stage of development of the particular Hybrid and may well extend beyond the EU.

IP/10/1515 - 17 November 2010