October 20, 2016 / 3:31 PM / 3 years ago

Seed firm Vilmorin doubts farmer appetite for all-in offerings

* Like BASF, French firm sceptical of one-stop shop model

* Focus on veg seeds, maize, wheat; data only as complement

* Sees no clear M&A targets resulting from mega-merger deals

* Profits fell last year, Europe grain market to stay tough

By Gus Trompiz

PARIS, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Vilmorin will remain a specialist seed maker and is sceptical farmers will take to the bundled agricultural product offerings that have encouraged multi-billion merger deals in the farm supplies sector, the French firm’s chief executive said.

Bayer’s planned $66 billion purchase of Monsanto , unveiled last month, followed ChemChina’s deal to acquire Syngenta and a merger agreement between Dow Chemical and DuPont - moves designed to bring scale and broader product ranges during a downturn in many agricultural markets.

Vilmorin, the world’s fourth-largest seed maker by sales, wants to stick to its priorities of vegetable seeds, maize (corn) and wheat, CEO Emmanuel Rougier told Reuters.

“We’re a pure play seed company, unlike the other players,” he said following a press conference. “We have plenty to do with our three priorities, without getting dispersed.”

Like BASF, which has cast doubt on the one-stop shop logic pursued by Bayer in acquiring Monsanto, Vilmorin said the case had yet to be proven that farmers want to buy services from pesticides to weather data from one provider.

“As part of a farmer cooperative group, we find it hard to imagine that farmers will want to have someone dictate to them how to run their farms from A to Z,” Rougier said.

Vilmorin, majority owned by French cooperative Limagrain, had a team looking at ways to develop information services for clients to support seed sales, but had no plans to invest massively in so-called big data projects, he said.

The trio of mega-merger deals would on paper reinforce the current position of Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta as the world’s biggest seed makers, but it could take two or three years for the companies both to obtain regulatory approval and reorganise their activities, he said.

Vilmorin did not see obvious acquisition opportunities for itself arising from asset sales required for regulatory clearance, Rougier said earlier during a presentation of the group’s 2015/16 results.

Likely markets for regulatory scrutiny would be cotton in the United States and canola in Canada, two markets which Vilmorin had no plans to enter, he said.

In vegetable seeds, the multitude of varieties would make it hard for regulators to see a dominant position, while Vilmorin itself already had large positions as the world’s second-largest producer behind Monsanto, he added.

Vilmorin reported on Wednesday that its net profit for the year to June 30 fell to 60.8 million euros from 75.9 million in 2014/15.

Its field crop division, which had been a drag on 2015/16 profits, would continue to face difficult conditions in Europe due to low grain prices for farmers, it said. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Andrew Callus and Mark Potter)

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