Bayer offers vegetable seeds disposal to clinch Monsanto deal: sources

BRUSSELS/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Bayer BAYGn.DE plans to sell its global vegetable seeds business and allow BASF BASFn.DE exclusive access to its digital farming data in an effort to address EU antitrust concerns over its $63.5 billion purchase of Monsanto MON.N, three people close to the matter said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The Brazilian national flag is seen next to Bayer's flag in front of Bayer headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File photo

The German drug and crop chemicals maker submitted its offer last week after the European Commission said the deal could reduce competition in pesticides, seeds and plant traits such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.

Bayer clinched a deal in October last year to sell its seed and herbicide businesses to BASF for 5.9 billion euros ($7.2 billion).

Bayer’s vegetable seeds business, which operates under the brand Nunhems, has more than 1,200 seed varieties in 25 vegetables crops.

The company has offered to divest the vegetable seeds business as a unit including its intellectual property rights, locations and production sites to a new entrant in a move that rules out bids from private equity firms, the sources said.

The business operates under the brand Nunhems and has more than 1,200 seed varieties in 25 vegetables crops.

To assuage regulatory concerns about its collection of data and information about farms known as digital agriculture, Bayer will also give BASF an exclusive license to its digital farming platform, the sources said.

The European Commission, Bayer and BASF declined to comment.

Another source said that rival agribusiness Syngenta SYENF.PK is very interested in the vegetable seeds operation but that there are also other interested parties. The Swiss-based company declined to comment.

The EU competition authority has given rivals and customers until Friday to provide feedback on Bayer’s proposed concessions. It is possible that some could ask for more time.

The Commission, which is scheduled to decide by April 5, can either accept the concessions, demand more or veto the deal.

($1 = 0.8157 euros)

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt and Oliver Hirt in Zurich; Editing by David Goodman and Elaine Hardcastle