BREAKING NEWS – Tens of millions of dollars were within reach for M Prabhakara Rao as he prepared in April 2015 to take his Indian cotton seed company public.
The Indian businessman already had $54 million in initial funding from an American private equity investor. Rao had also locked in a long-term licensing agreement with Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, for the technology used in genetically modified cotton seeds that made up the majority of his annual sales.
Two months after publishing his initial public offering (IPO) plan, Rao gambled. He sent one of his executives to negotiate a 10 per cent cut in royalties with Monsanto. The multinational said no.
The outcome of that meeting ignited a corporate battle that has left Rao’s IPO plans in tatters and drawn in the Indian and US governments. More ominously, the fight has disrupted India’s $1.8 billion-a-year seed industry, with Monsanto saying it may abandon the market.
Monsanto’s Indian joint venture last July withdrew its application to introduce a new generation of cotton seed technology to India. The existing version, in India for a decade, is losing effectiveness against bollworms, which can wipe out crops. If another company doesn’t step into the breach, agricultural economists warn the dispute could damage India’s cotton-growing sector – which recently surpassed China’s as the world’s biggest and last year accounted for more than a quarter of global output, with a value of over $8.5 billion. (READ MORE)