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By Liz Crampton
Deere & Co. announced May 1 that Monsanto Co. has ended its agreement to sell its Precision Planting business to Deere, a $190 million deal that was facing an antitrust challenge by the Justice Department in federal court in Illinois.
John May, a chief information officer for Deere, said the companies were “prepared to present their case for approval” in a trial scheduled for June in Chicago. The companies recently requested an early ruling on the case because they said the government failed to establish a relevant product market where the deal would harm competition.
Monsanto’s decision takes a big merger court challenge off the DOJ’s plate. The antitrust division is currently in Delaware federal court fighting a merger of two competing nuclear waste disposal companies. There are no other upcoming merger trials.
“We are deeply disappointed in this outcome as we remain confident the acquisition would have benefited customers,” May said.
Deere, the world’s largest maker of agricultural machinery, agreed to buy the Monsanto business, Precision Planting LLC, in 2015 for $190 million. The government sued in 2016 to block the deal, arguing that it would combine the only two providers of high-speed precision planting systems, which gives farmers the ability to plant crops accurately at higher speeds.
“The companies’ decision to abandon this transaction is a victory for American farmers and consumers,” said Andrew Finch, acting assistant attorney general of the antitrust division. “Had this acquisition gone forward, significant head-to-head competition between Deere and Monsanto’s Precision Planting—competition that has led to lower prices and more innovative products—would have been lost.”
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