MORE ON THE DUPONT PIONEER, MONSANTO SETTLEMENT
Mar. 27, 2013
Des Moines Register reports:
DuPont and Monsanto agreed Tuesday to drop antitrust and patent lawsuits filed against each other as part of a broader licensing deal reached between the two agribusiness rivals.
The deal between the seed giants will allow DuPont's Pioneer unit, based in Johnston, to license the newest versions of Monsanto's soybeans engineered to withstand Roundup and other weed sprays as soon as next year.
Pioneer also would gain expanded access to soybean and corn traits previously licensed from Monsanto, enabling it to combine the traits with technology it uses from other companies or with its own.
As part of the deal, Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, will receive access to certain DuPont Pioneer disease resistance and corn defoliation patents.
"This is a smart deal for DuPont," Paul Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer, said in an interview. "It removes this conflict that DuPont and Monsanto had out of the courtroom and enables us to focus squarely on the marketplace, squarely on the customer."
The stock market viewed the news as a win for Monsanto. Shares of the St. Louis-based company rose 4.4 percent to close at $103.79, while DuPont declined 0.3 percent to $48.97.
The seed giants have been engaged in a heated legal battle for years. The rivals are also fighting to gain market share among farmers eager to boost yields and meet increased demand for corn and soybeans.
As part of the deal, the companies agreed to drop their antitrust and patent lawsuits against each other. It throws out $1 billion awarded to Monsanto last August after a federal jury agreed that DuPont infringed on the St. Louis company's patents. DuPont vowed to fight the verdict and filed an antitrust lawsuit accusing Monsanto of using its Roundup Ready technology to block competition.
Pioneer has licensed Roundup Ready traits from Monsanto since 2002 to offer farmers the same protection for their crops that Monsanto used in its seeds and also had licensed to other independent seed companies.
"This signals a new approach to our companies doing business together, allowing two of the leaders in the industry to focus on bringing farmers the best products possible while working to advance innovation and long-term opportunity for agriculture," Brett Begemann, Monsanto president and chief commercial officer, said in a statement.
Diana Moss, a vice president with the American Antitrust Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, said the collaboration between the two seed companies was likely spurred on by the growing use of so-called stacks, where multiple traits are combined into a single product and then inserted into the seed.
It can take several years and millions of dollars to develop new seeds that are growing increasingly more complicated, she said, making a licensing deal with a competitor more palatable.
"It reflects the growing necessity in the crop seed and genetic traits industry for collaboration among rivals," Moss said. "Monsanto is obviously realizing that it can only move forward through more collaboration and getting access to rivals' technology."
The deal announced Tuesday calls for DuPont Pioneer to make four annual fixed royalty payments totaling $802 million from 2014 to 2017 for trait technology and data and to support commercialization of new soybean technology.
In addition, DuPont Pioneer will begin in 2018 to pay royalties on a per-unit basis for continued technology access to two new soybean products - Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield and Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Xtend. The annual minimum payments will total $950 million through 2023.
"The financial terms are attractive, the product options are attractive and the flexibility it gives to our technology pipeline all were attractive," Schickler said. "The time today was right to get this done."
Under the seed-licensing deal, Pioneer will have more flexibility to create products that help growers, he said.
Schickler said the two firms have been engaged in discussions as part of the ongoing litigation for several years, but talks intensified in the last few weeks as it was apparent they were nearing an agreement.
Together, DuPont and Monsanto share about two-thirds of the North American corn and soybean seed markets, and each firm has funneled millions of dollars to develop new traits to be the first to get better versions of their seed technology to market.
More than 90 percent of U.S.-grown soybeans have the Roundup Ready trait and more than 200 seed companies license the technology from Monsanto. Roundup Ready Soybeans, which are resistant to the Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides, were introduced by Monsanto in 1996. Other crops have since adopted the technology, including corn and cotton.