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Monsanto name going away as new owners prepare to take over

Monsanto is expected to keep a large operation in the St. Louis region after the Bayer buyout goes into effect.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Original story from 06/04/18; updated with audio from St. Louis on the Air segment on 06/06/18.

Monsanto will be under new ownership by the end of the week and have a new name likely by the end of the summer. Bayer plans to finalize its roughly $63-billion acquisition of the St. Louis agricultural seeds and chemical company on Thursday. 

The companies will continue to operate separately for at least a couple more months. Monsanto can't be fully integrated into Bayer until the German company sells some units to chemical giant BASF for $9 billion.

Those deals should be completed in about two months. They were vital in getting U.S. regulators to approve the Monsanto acquisition.

The wait is not ideal for Bayer. It will not have access to some Monsanto information for weeks, even though it will own the company. That includes employee numbers. Bayer is expecting to increase employee levels at the Monsanto operations, which are currently around 5,400.

"We will be moving the crop-science people from RTP in North Carolina to St. Louis, because that will be our North American headquarters" Liam Condon, Bayer Crop Science Division president reiterated to reporters on a conference call Monday morning. 

RTP is the Research Triangle Park that is anchored by three universities and the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and the town of Chapel Hill.

Along with employee numbers, one of the key elements for the St. Louis region is the decision to retire the Monsanto name.

"We simply had a strong belief that the Bayer brand has a very strong, positive recognition, simply based on brand audits that we've done worldwide," Condon said.

"This is something we couldn't say about the Monsanto corporate brand."

The St. Louis company has many critics worldwide who oppose work on genetically modified organisms — known as GMOs — and have concerns about the impact of some herbicides on the environment and humans.

Condon admits Bayer will have some work ahead of it to change any negative public perception.

Liam Condon will lead Bayer's operations in St. Louis. He has been president of the Crop Science Division since 2016.

"Changing a brand name does not change anything like reputation overnight," he said.

Some groups oppose the deal because they believe it will hurt farmers. That includes the National Farmers Union.

"This just further consolidates that market. It raises prices and creates fewer choices for farmers," union Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Rob Larew said during a recent interview.

"And in our argument, we would say [it] stymies innovation in this space. So, all around, this is just not good news for farmers who are already facing trouble," he added, referring to farmers struggling to make ends meet because of low crop prices.

Condon shot down that criticism, insisting the combination with Monsanto will improve innovation and not take away from competition.

He contends that position is backed up by federal regulators in the United States.

"The [Department of Justice] went basically out of its way to make sure that all competitive issues were addressed," Condon told reporters.

"We also firmly believe there will continue to be tremendously strong competition in this space."

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Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.