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German drugs and pesticides group Bayer said it would likely take until early next year to complete the planned $66 billion takeover of U.S. seeds group Monsanto, which it had previously expected to be under wraps by the end of 2017.
The European Commission has been scrutinizing the takeover with a deadline of Jan. 8. Bayer said in a statement it had asked the regulator for an extension to Jan. 22, to which the EU Commission responded by saying it would take a decision shortly.
Liam Condon, head of Bayer's Crop Science division, said: "An anticipated closing of the deal in early 2018 is now more likely than the end of 2017."
The Commission last month started an in-depth investigation of the takeover, saying it was worried about competition in various pesticide and seeds markets.
Among a slew of markets where competition was at risk, the EU Commission at the time named Monsanto's weed killer glyphosate, or Roundup, which competes with Bayer's glufosinate; vegetable and canola seeds; and licensing of cotton-seed technology to peers.
More broadly, it said the deal might slow the race to develop new products, and that the European Union would try to prevent Bayer from becoming too dominant in combined offerings of seeds and pesticides with the help of digital farming tools such as connected sensors, software and precision machines.
Bayer, which was holding a media event on its Crop Science business on Tuesday, also said the division would face volatile global markets for the rest of the year but would slowly return to growth from 2018, including its embattled Brazilian business.
Bayer warned in June that poor sales at crop protection distributors in Brazil would full-year hit earnings.