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  • Monsanto is displayed on a screen where the stock is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S.

    Monsanto is displayed on a screen where the stock is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S. | Photo: Reuters

The agricultural giant, once an instigator of mergers and acquisitions, is now a takeover target itself.

A year after Monsanto sparked a massive consolidation race in the agrochemical industry by bidding for a rival, the world's largest seed company now finds itself in the uncomfortable role of takeover target, Reuters reported on Thursday.

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Monsanto shares rallied as much as 12 percent on Thursday on new reports that Bayer AG, a German pharmaceutical company, and BASF SE, the world's largest chemical producer, were interested in the St. Louis-based company, highlighting the drive for more marriages in the sector.

Bloomberg News reported Bayer was exploring a bid for Monsanto, while financial news website Street Insider reported that BASF was looking at a Monsanto acquisition.

Still, some analysts were skeptical such a deal involving Monsanto would go through or was even necessary for Bayer or BASF, even though combining businesses would be complementary.

Before Thursday's merger talk boosted its stock, Monsanto's market cap had fallen 28 percent in the past 12 months as its four largest rivals announced bids to merge. On top of that, U.S. regulators delayed approval of a key new weed killer, dicamba, and glyphosate — the herbicide key to the weed killer Roundup — was labeled a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

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U.S. securities regulators said in February the company would pay US$80 million in a settlement over accounting violations.

Overseas, Monsanto is embroiled in a royalty fight over cotton seed pricing in top grower India and a similar battle over soybean royalties in Argentina. The lack of timely import approval from the European Union derailed the launch of its next-generation GMO soybean seeds in the United States and Canada this spring, as major grain companies said they would not accept the crops.

Amid the setbacks and challenges, the Monsanto management team has remained largely intact, leading analysts to conclude it performed adequately during boom times, but may have been overmatched by the wave of change.

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