* Pesticide maker BASF has previously avoided seeds business
* Prices of seed assets might be “different”- deputy CEO
* Buying seed assets “an option, not a must”
* Bayer to sell LibertyLink seed brands (Adds details on BASF’s thinking, previous policy, rivals)
By Ludwig Burger and Patricia Weiss
LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany, June 29 (Reuters) - BASF will consider buying seed assets that rivals are putting on the block to win antitrust approval for tie-ups, saying bargain prices could persuade BASF to overcome its traditional reluctance to expand into the seeds industry.
Sources familiar with BASF’s thinking have said that competition regulators looking at potential buyers of antitrust-related assets might favour new entrants to the seed market, such as BASF, over established players to stoke competition in a quickly consolidating market.
“There are assets that will come to market for antitrust reasons and they might come at prices that are different from those that we have seen in the past. That’s why we will look into it and see whether it makes sense for us,” deputy Chief Executive Martin Brudermueller told a news conference at the group’s headquarters.
“Seed assets are an option, not a must,” he added.
Rival Bayer last month said it will sell its LibertyLink-branded seeds businesses, a key part of asset sales required to satisfy competition authorities looking at its $66 billion Monsanto deal.
BASF, the world’s third-largest maker of crop chemicals, has so far avoided seed assets and has voiced scepticism that a combination of the two businesses would make sense for it.
Instead it has pursued research into plant characteristics such as drought tolerance, which it sells or licenses out to seed breeders.
Rival Syngenta, the Swiss crop protection company acquired by ChemChina, this week vowed to bulk up its seeds business and join the chase for the assets that Bayer must sell.
BASF is the only player left among the top six in a global seeds and pesticides market worth over $100 billion that has not paired up with a major peer. (Editing by Maria Sheahan, editing by David Evans)