Monsanto Is On A Major Losing Streak

The agricultural giant seems like it "forgot to sacrifice a goat to the gods."
German rival Bayer AG has its eyes on Monsanto.
German rival Bayer AG has its eyes on Monsanto.
Sean Gallup via Getty Images

Monsanto's list of problems is growing like a weed.

Now, the world's largest seed company seems vulnerable to a $42 billion takeover bid by its German rival Bayer, maker of the eponymous Aspirin brand. And that's just the latest sign of trouble for Monsanto.

"It's a relentless string of bad news," Jonas Oxgaard, an analyst at the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., told Bloomberg News' Jen Skerritt this week. "It's almost like they forgot to sacrifice a goat to the gods."

Here are all the things that have gone wrong at Monsanto this year:

  • In January, the company laid off a total of 3,600 employees, or about 16 percent of its workforce.

  • In February, Swiss competitor Syngenta agreed to the China National Chemical Corp.'s acquisition offer, just months after refusing for a fourth time to sell itself to Monsanto.

  • In March, the maker of RoundUp weed killer slashed its earnings forecast for the year amid economic headwinds from low commodity prices.

  • Earlier this month, two of the largest U.S. grain traders refused to buy a new type of Monsanto's genetically modified soybean because European Union regulators have yet to approve it.

  • The firm is locked in ongoing disputes over seed royalties in Argentina and India.

  • Its stock price has fallen by as much as 31 percent in the past 12 months, according to Bloomberg.

In a statement, Monsanto confirmed on Wednesday that its board of directors planned to review Bayer's offer, the same day Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann denied talk of a deal as "wild speculation."

"There is no assurance that any transaction will be entered into or consummated, or on what terms," the company said in the statement.

Monsanto spokeswoman Christi Dixon declined to comment to The Huffington Post.

Shares of Monsanto climbed on Thursday after confirmation of Bayer's bid, but have fallen precipitously over the past 12 months.
Shares of Monsanto climbed on Thursday after confirmation of Bayer's bid, but have fallen precipitously over the past 12 months.
Google Finance

The move by Bayer comes amid increasing consolidation in the chemical industry. Dow Chemical and DuPont Co. announced plans in December to merge into a $130 billion giant. By buying Syngenta for $43 billion, the Chinese state-owned ChemChina could become the world's largest supplier of crop-protection products. As the Wall Street Journal's Christopher Alessi noted on Thursday, taking over Monsanto may be Bayer's last chance to bulk up and avoid being sidelined as a "second-tier crop player."

Founded in 1901 in St. Louis as a producer of chemicals such as Agent Orange, Monsanto was voted the "world’s most evil company" by Natural News readers in 2013. Notoriously litigious, the firm has sued everyone from farmers who save its seeds — the company ferociously defends its patents — to European food regulators who refuse to legalize its products.

By sheer virtue of its market dominance, Monsanto's genetically modified crops and insecticides play a crucial role in feeding the world's growing population. The firm, used to its reputation as one of the most hated companies in the world, defends itself as a necessary player in the fight to feed 9 billion humans by 2050.

Still, groups such as the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists accuse Monsanto of hampering efforts to make farming more sustainable.

"They're an aggressive company when it comes to the marketing and the PR and the reassuring everyone constantly that [GMOs] are safe," Patty Lovera, assistant director at the food industry advocacy group Food & Water Watch, told HuffPost by phone. "They're also very aggressive in their business practices when it comes to selling seeds, and they have an enormous amount of control over the building blocks of the food industry."

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