By Ludwig Burger
MONHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - German drugs and pesticides group Bayer <BAYGn.DE> said on Tuesday it was now likely to be early next year before it can complete its $66 billion deal to acquire U.S. group Monsanto <MON.N>, later than previously expected.
The European Commission has been scrutinizing the proposed takeover with a deadline of Jan. 8 but Bayer said in a statement it had asked the regulator for an extension on the investigation 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 end of 2017." He also expressed his confidence that the EU would give the green light.
However, the company said it could not think of any asset sales which could be made to allay the European Commission's concerns about what it sees as Bayer's looming dominance in digital farming.
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 making a media presentation 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.
(Editing by Georgina Prodhan, Greg Mahlich)