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Bayer CEO invites environmental groups to discuss Monsanto bid

FRANKFURT, Germany – Bayer's chief executive said in an interview published Sunday, May 29, he is ready to meet environmental groups to address concerns about his group's plans to take over US agrochemicals giant Monsanto.

In an interview with the Sunday newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Werner Baumann also hinted that the Monsanto brand could disappear once the business is integrated into Bayer.

Bayer, a household name thanks to its painkiller Aspirin, said this week that it is offering $122 per share in cash for Monsanto – $62 billion (55 billion euros) in total.

If successful, it would be the biggest foreign takeover by a German company and would create a new world leader in seeds, pesticides, and genetically modified (GM) crops.

Monsanto has dismissed the offer as too low, but said it was willing to enter into further merger talks.

Environmental campaigners fear that the combined group's dominant market position in the seeds and pesticides markets could lead to higher prices, limit consumer choice, and open the door to Monsanto's genetically modified crops being marketed in Europe.

Baumann has sought to limit opposition to any takeover bid by inviting campaigners to talk to Bayer's management.

"As much as I talk to our investors to convince them of the plans, the offer also stands for environmental groups and other non-governmental organizations," Baumann said.

"Let's talk about the matter and its prospects."

Bayer would continue to uphold its strict ethical standards if it succeeded in acquiring Monsanto, Baumann said.

"Our way of doing business may differ from the way Monsanto does. I can assure you that we would conduct these businesses based on the same standards as our other operations," he said.

Asked whether Bayer would retain the Monsanto brand Baumann said: "We'll decide that when the time comes. Suffice to say that Bayer enjoys an excellent reputation and appeal worldwide. We must take advantage of that."

Bayer's shares have plummeted since it announced its takeover plans as investor concern has grown that the price it is offering is too high.

Baumann insisted that Bayer needed to make a "very attractive offer which values Monsanto fully."

Asked whether Bayer might have to sell off other assets to finance the deal, the chief executive said: "No. Our finances are solid. We'll finance the deal solely through a mixture of loans and own funds." – Rappler.com