Bayer AG’s $66 billion bid to merge with Monsanto Co. is targeted in an advocacy group advertisement aimed straight at President Donald Trump.
Farmers and Families First Inc., a social advocacy nonprofit, said Feb. 6 that it has purchased the ad titled “Save the Heartland” to run on Fox News in the Washington area starting “immediately.”
The ad appeals directly to Trump “to stand with America’s farmers and please stop the Monsanto merger” with Bayer.
Directing TV ads to Trump about a pending tie-up in theory should have no effect because he isn’t deciding whether the deal should go forward. The Justice Department is reviewing it. And U.S. regulators don’t consider external political factors such as TV ads when evaluating the economic impacts of a deal.
Trump theoretically could have had a direct say in spiking the merger during a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) because those probes sometimes require the president to make a final decision. But the Bayer-Monsanto deal already passed a CFIUS review in December, the companies said.
Farmers and Families First’s issues and activities revolve around opposing the Bayer-Monsanto merger, according to the group’s website. Like other opponents of the deal, it argues that the deal would hurt family farmers by giving Bayer-Monsanto a corner on the market on certain seeds and herbicides, increasing input prices to farmers and food prices to consumers. The group didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about its advertisement.
The Bayer-Monsanto deal, announced in September 2016, is pending before the DOJ’s antitrust division under an in-depth review that usually signals some antitrust problems with the tie-up. Analysts predict that the merging parties will need to make some concessions before the transaction is approved.
Separately, Brazil’s antitrust regulator on Feb. 7 approved Bayer-Monsanto, Bloomberg reported. The concessions include sale of a seed and agrochemical business to BASF SE, a competitor.
Trump and Mergers
Trump has already voiced his opinion of other high-profile mergers, and he met with Bayer and Monsanto executives a few weeks before he was inaugurated. He spoke out against the merger between AT&T Corp. and Time Warner Corp. on the campaign trail. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions in November on whether Trump had influenced the agency’s review of that proposed merger.
Trump’s vocal opposition to the AT&T-Time Warner deal, and his attacks on Time Warner-owned CNN, forced Makan Delrahim, his newly appointed chief of the antitrust division, to aggressively defend his decision to sue to block the merger. Possible political interference in the regulatory process will figure in AT&T’s defense of the government’s lawsuit, according to AT&T’s court filings.
In contrast, Trump gave Walt Disney Co.’s proposed merger with 21st Century Fox the thumbs up. U.S. antitrust regulators are still mulling whether that deal, announced in December, will harm competition.
Bayer AG, which is taking the lead in securing regulatory approval for the merger, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the ad.
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