ST. LOUIS – Monsanto Co. shareholders on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $57 billion merger with Bayer AG, a deal that would combine two of the world’s biggest agricultural companies.
Preliminary results showed that 99 percent of all votes cast favored the merger announced in September, St. Louis-based Monsanto said. Shareholders will receive $128 per share in cash at the closing of the merger, which must still receive regulatory approval. Monsanto said the deal is expected to close by the end of 2017.
Monsanto shares rose 32 cents to $104.91 in midday trading.
“This is an important milestone as we work to combine our two complementary companies and deliver on our shared vision for the future of agriculture,” Monsanto Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said in a statement.
Bayer, the German medicine and farm-chemical maker, and Monsanto, maker of seeds, herbicides and pesticides among other agricultural products, have faced concern from some government and ag industry leaders who worry the merger will hurt farmers by reducing competition at a time when the agriculture economy has slowed.
The National Farmers Union has said the merger would mean that three companies would have more than 80 percent of U.S. corn seed sales and 70 percent of the global pesticide market.
Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said in a statement that the vote “underscores NFU’s concern that these megadeals are being made to benefit the shareholders of multinational corporations at the expense of family farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural economies.” He urged the U.S. Department of Justice to “reject this and other pending and future deals that further cripple marketplace competition.”
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said at a hearing in September that the wave of consolidations “has become a tsunami.”
Top officials for both companies say the merger will be a boost for farmers.
“By bringing together our expertise and our resources to drive this shared vision, we can do even more together to benefit growers around the world and to help address broad global challenges like climate change and food scarcity,” Grant said.