18 December 1998

Zeneca agrees merger

ZENECA is to merge with Swedish pharmaceuticals group Astra, subject to approval by competition authorities.

The deal is the biggest ever European merger, creating a company worth over £42bn. It includes Zeneca Agrochemicals, the worlds third largest agrochemical company.

Well-known products including fungicide Amistar and weedkillers Gramoxone and Fusilade helped push the agrochemical divisions annual sales to £1.6bn last year, 30% of parent Zenecas total.

However, if the merger goes ahead, that contribution will halve. There have been suggestions in the City that the agrochemicals arm might not fit comfortably within the new company.

But that is denied by Zeneca Agrochemical spokesman Stuart Shields. "Zeneca has invested heavily in agrochemicals, and it intends to be in the business for the longer haul."

All 2500 jobs invol-ved in agrochemicals are safe, he adds. &#42