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SYNGENTA WON'T BE FORCED TO RAISE PRICES FROM CHEMCHINA ACQUISITION
Dow Jones reports:

China National Chemical Corp. won't force Syngenta AG to raise its prices to make good on its multibillion-dollar acquisition of the Swiss seeds and pesticide maker, said Syngenta's chief financial officer.

Future price increases at Syngenta won't be linked to the planned $43 billion acquisition of Syngenta by ChemChina, CFO Mark Patrick said in an interview Wednesday.

"I don't see a direct linkage between price increases and the $43 billion that ChemChina pays for Syngenta," he said.

Syngenta, however, needed to make sure it was being rewarded for its technology investments, Mr. Patrick said. The company was prepared to "do whatever we need in order to be competitive," he said regarding the deal.

In 2016, price increases contributed $233 million to the company's results, Mr. Patrick said Wednesday during an analysts call.

Syngenta's 2016 sales amounted to $12.79 billion, down from $13.41 billion in 2015. Net income was $1.18 billion, compared with $1.34 billion in 2015.

Syngenta Chief Executive Erik Fyrwald said the company was confident the transaction would close in the second quarter of 2017. "The process has taken longer than we originally expected," Mr. Fyrwald said during the analyst call. However, he said discussions with EU regulators were constructive and the company expects EU regulatory approval by April 12.

The delay in retaining regulatory approval which has led to state-owned ChemChina extending its offer several times since February 2016 has had a "very limited impact" on Syngenta's balance sheet, Mr. Patrick said.

Nevertheless, the company booked restructuring and impairment charges of $390 million in 2016, compared with $300 million in 2015. Part of that was caused by transaction-related expenses for advice by banks and other service providers, Mr. Patrick said.

The company is now working with ChemChina to flesh out "an optimal financing model" for after the deal closes, he said. Despite the differences in accounting and financial modeling between Switzerland and China, the dialogue was "engaging," Mr. Patrick said.

As part of ChemChina, Syngenta could be looking at mergers and acquisitions, he said. Assets that might be spun off by Bayer AG and Monsanto Co. to gain regulatory approval for their planned takeover could be opportunities worth exploring for Syngenta, Mr. Patrick said.

"We are very open to the M&A activity that is out there," he said. The company could also increase its innovation spending from around 9% or 10% of sales annually, he said.

The company will remain a stand-alone entity after the closure of the ChemChina deal, Mr. Patrick said. Thus, there won't be changes to the company's tax headquarters in Basel, Switzerland.

Syngenta supports a move to unify the country's corporate tax code, he said. On Sunday, voters in Switzerland will vote in a referendum on plans to make changes to the tax system, which currently allows cantons to set their own corporate tax rates. Should the plan go forward, it would be "neutral" to Syngenta, Mr. Patrick said.

The company in 2016 reported a tax rate before restructuring of 15%, compared with 17% for 2015.


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