Tribunal hearing on seed firm takeover

Johannesburg - The Competition Tribunal will hold a hearing involving Pioneer Hi-Bred and Pannar Seed regarding the latter's majority share sale deal on Wednesday.

Both parties support the approval of Pannar to sell a majority share of its business to Pioneer.

The public hearing, at which other parties will also make representations, is part of a process expected to conclude with a final hearing in September this year.

Pannar and Pioneer have requested the tribunal to review the December 2010 decision of the Competition Commission to prohibit the transaction.

In their filing with the tribunal, the seed businesses say that there are convincing grounds for the tribunal to approve the partnership.

The transaction has already been approved by competition authorities in all other African countries where it was required to be notified - Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Namibia and Swaziland.

Pannar Seed is a South African-based seed company with operations in the rest of Africa and other parts of the world.

"Pannar needs a partner and chose Pioneer," said Pannar chairperson Brian Corbishley.

"Through this partnership, our operations in South Africa and our contribution in Africa will be strengthened, our business will be more competitive, and we will be able to deliver better products faster," he said.

If the transaction is approved, Pioneer intends to expand the two businesses' existing SA research capabilities, making SA one of Pioneer's major research hubs outside the United States in addition to existing hubs in Brazil, China and India.

The research hubs will help stimulate a transfer of skills and technology to SA, with benefits to farmers and consumers throughout Africa.

The partnership allows Pannar access to Pioneer's complementary plant genetics and advanced breeding technologies.

Pannar and Pioneer argue that the transaction could help improve food production in SA and the rest of Africa.

The few parties opposing this merger have suggested that the proposed partnership is about biotechnology traits (GMOs).

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