(Bloomberg) -- Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. face a “still very open” outcome from a European Union antitrust review of their $60 billion merger, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said as the companies met with regulators to defend the deal.
Regulators are concerned that the agrochemical industry is already “a very concentrated sector” and that farmers need to have a choice of seeds and crop-protection products, Vestager told Bloomberg TV in an interview Monday. The EU is also examining China National Chemical Corp.’s bid for Syngenta AG, which Vestager said was a "very different deal" that also showed the importance of research to develop new products.
“Farmers need innovation as well in these products and that would be something that we will be discussing with the companies moving forward,” Vestager said.
Both deals passed milestones in their EU reviews on Monday, with ChemChina and Syngenta submitting concessions to regulators for the first time. Dow and DuPont defended themselves against EU objections at a closed-door hearing in Brussels attended by BASF SE representatives and trade groups for farmers and the biotechnology industry. Regulators will now give feedback on any remaining concerns, and then the companies can offer concessions to allay any issues.
“We are continuing to work constructively with the European Commission and all other relevant regulatory authorities to address their questions and to obtain clearance for the merger,” Dow spokeswoman Rachelle Schikorra said in an e-mailed statement. The company won’t give details on the discussions with regulators, she said.
DuPont and Syngenta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Any possible remedies offered to get approval for the ChemChina-Syngenta deal weren’t disclosed.
The two deals and Bayer AG’s agreement to buy Monsanto Co. -- which hasn’t been filed to the EU for approval -- could reshape the agricultural-chemicals industry, which produces chemicals that farmers use to control insects, weeds and fungus, among other pests.
Vestager, who baked her co-workers in Brussels a New Year’s cake, also talked about Google’s antitrust review at the EU.
It’s “too early to say what will be our final decision,” she said. “We are in the process of going through it, it is very substantive.”
She said it will take “a couple of months” for the EU to decide once it gets a restructuring plan from Italy on Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena. The EU approved an Italian emergency request to give liquidity support to the bank at the end of last year.
“We are obliged to see a restructuring plan that will allow for a viable bank on the other side,” she said in the interview.
(Adds comments on Google, Monte Paschi, starting in eighth paragraph.)
--With assistance from Stephanie Bodoni To contact the reporters on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.org, David Gura in London at email@example.com. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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