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Chinese envoy says Syngenta takeover was a bad deal

Zurich | Reuters — Beijing’s ambassador to Switzerland said ChemChina’s US$43 billion takeover of seed and agrochemicals firm Syngenta was a mistake, adding he would have tried to stop the 2017 deal had he been in Bern at the time, a newspaper reported in an interview on Saturday.

“If I had been the ambassador a year earlier, the takeover wouldn’t have taken place,” Gen Wenbin was quoted as telling the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, without giving specific reasons for his opposition to the deal.

“It wasn’t a good deal for the Chinese side. It was for Switzerland: It got $40 billion. If Switzerland wants Syngenta back, I would convince ChemChina to sell it. But is there anybody at all in Switzerland who wants Syngenta back?”

Basel-based Syngenta was listed on the SIX Swiss Stock exchange when it was bought by ChemChina, so shareholders received the money from the deal that closed in 2017.

After the takeover spurred debate over foreign countries expanding in Switzerland, Swiss politicians are debating a measure in parliament that could require government approval of sales of Swiss companies to foreign entities.

Other big Chinese investments in Swiss companies include HNA Group’s purchase of airline caterer Gategroup and ground services and cargo handling firm Swissport.

Gen Wenbin said criticism in Switzerland’s media over such transactions had driven potential Chinese investors to look elsewhere.

“They’re going to Germany,” the ambassador told the daily newspaper.

Syngenta did not return a phone call and email seeking comment on Saturday. No one could immediately be reached to comment at the Chinese embassy.

The former Swiss firm is targeting growth through acquisitions in the US$17 billion Chinese seed market, where access is restricted for foreign players, as well as new products and collaborations in technology.

— Reporting for Reuters by John Miller.

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