Bayer’s $66 billion Monsanto takeover has plenty of critics. But thanks to an $8 billion R&D pledge, it has one key backer: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, Bayer and Monsanto said that their respective CEOs—Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant—had a “very productive” meeting with Trump and his team, resulting in a pledge to promise $16 billion or more in agriculture R&D over the next six years, with at least half of that coming in the U.S.
Analysts are skeptical that the companies' promises offer much in the way of new investment; after crunching some numbers and checking facts, Bernstein analysts don't think so. But Trump's ability to take credit for those promises can't hurt the companies' chances at winning antitrust approval for their controversial deal.
“This is an investment in innovation and people that will create several thousand new high-tech, well-paying jobs,” including geneticists, roboticists, satellite imagery specialists, engineers and data scientists, the companies said.
Monsanto's global seeds headquarters will remain in St. Louis, and the agri-giant’s North American commercial headquarters and additional R&D locations will stay in the U.S., too, the companies said.
Trump’s camp, which has been taking credit for several U.S.-based companies’ recent decisions to keep jobs domestic, touted the news Tuesday. Transition team spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters the companies had committed to hanging on to 100% of Monsanto’s U.S. workforce, creating 3,000 new U.S.-based jobs and keeping Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters, and that those plans had not been in the works prior to Trump’s involvement, CNBC reports.
Some of those pledges sound familiar to analysts, though—including Bernstein’s Jeremy Redenius, who told the news service that “St. Louis to remain the headquarters of the North American seeds business has been the plan from the start.”
Redenius questioned the R&D vow, too, noting that, broken down, $16 billion over six years is about $2.7 billion per year—or what Bayer and Monsanto together spend in that field already. And half of it is likely already happening in the U.S., he figures, with Monsanto spending the majority of its annual $1.5 billion in its home country and Bayer chipping in some stateside R&D investments, too.
Fellow Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal agreed, telling CNBC that the companies would have spent at least some of that money on U.S.-based research “for sure.”
It’s not the first time the public has questioned Trump’s job-saving claims. Earlier this week, NBC reported that a newly announced $1 billion investment from GM had nothing to do with the incoming chief, prompting Trump to blast the outlet on Twitter Wednesday.
Totally biased @NBCNews went out of its way to say that the big announcement from Ford, G.M., Lockheed & others that jobs are coming back...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2017
to the U.S., but had nothing to do with TRUMP, is more FAKE NEWS. Ask top CEO's of those companies for real facts. Came back because of me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2017
Regardless of whether Bayer and Monsanto’s new vows are actually new, Trump’s favor is a good sign for the merger’s success. The companies have a tough antitrust road ahead, and Bernstein analyst Jonas Oxgaard, for one, has pegged the deal’s chance of closing at 50%.
“We expect fairly major political hurdles for a deal to pass EU and U.S. regulators,” he wrote in September.