A trickle of takeovers in the agrichemicals sector
accelerated into a flood as Syngenta purchased Devgen, a plant genetics group,
for a hefty premium in its second takeover in three days.
Syngenta, the world's biggest agrichemicals group, said it
had offered E403m in cash for Devgen, a rice seeds and insect control group,
and received approval from the board of the Belgian-based company and holders
of 48% of shares.
The deal follows Wednesday's acquisition of Pastueria Bioscience,
a biological pest control group with which Syngenta had, like Devgen, already
announced a research and development tie-up.
On Thursday, industrial conglomerate BASF unveiled the $1bn takeover of US-based Becker Underwood, which owns a portfolio of biological controls
including nematode worms which attack crop-damage insects, and bacteria which
fight off deleterious fungi.
Davor Pisk, the Syngenta chief operating officer, said that the
Devgen acquisition would "significantly reinforce our leading global position
in rice", boosting its portfolio in a grain which represents a food staple for
much of the world.
"Rice is critical to global food security and we expect to
make a key contribution to improving productivity," Mr Pisk said.
On Devgen's insecticide applications, based on technology invoking
so-called RNA interference, Sandro Aruffo, Syngenta's head of research and development,
said there was "immense potential" in combining the group's products.
However, at a price of E16 per share, Devgen came at a premium
of 70% to the stock's closing price on Thursday, and a level the stock had not
reached since February 2008.
"There is a strong strategic rationale for this proposed
acquisition. The proposed acquisition is an ideal fit for Syngenta," a Syngenta
spokesman told Agrimoney.com.
Devgen shares soared 69% to E15.89 in Brussels, factoring in
a small discount to the offer price which is typical in takeover situations, to
account for deal risk and the delay before shareholders stand to receive their
pay-off from Syngenta.
Syngenta shares closed 0.2% lower at SFr343.90.