Bayer is now facing 42,700 compensation claims, mostly in US courts. CEO Werner Baumann is calling for an “economically-viable” settlement of these cases but has also announced that 12,000 jobs will be cut by the end of 2021. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.
Bayer is currently one of the most popular targets for US attorneys. The German company, which acquired US seed and pesticide manufacturer Monsanto, is facing an avalanche of lawsuits over the weed killer glyphosate.
By mid-October, the number of compensation claims against Bayer had risen to 42,700, Baumann announced on Wednesday (30 October) at the presentation of the quarterly figures, more than double the 18,400 cases reported in July.
Lawyers searching for glyphosate victims on TV
Bayer blames aggressive TV advertising by lawyers for the wave of lawsuits, targeting people who believe they have contracted cancer from Monsanto’s glyphosate.
According to Bayer, the plaintiffs’ expenditure on television advertising is estimated to have doubled in the third quarter compared to the entire first half of this year.
The avalanche of lawsuits has increased pressure on Bayer to reach an out-of-court settlement. Talks have been going on for months and will be moderated by US star attorney Ken Feinberg.
All new lawsuits that should have begun this year have been postponed until next year because of potential negotiations on pre-court settlements. Baumann also said that there would probably not be an initial appeal ruling until next year.
First trials lost
In the US, Bayer had already lost the first three trials, where the juries proposed to force the group to pay huge damages which the judges subsequently significantly reduced.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys referred to the assessment of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that glyphosate is “probably” carcinogenic.
Bayer will appeal in all cases, and the German group will base their appeals on the scientific assessment of the regulatory authorities around the world, which contradict the WHO and say that glyphosate does not cause cancer when used as intended.
The dispute over glyphosate is putting Bayer’s leadership under pressure. At the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting in April, Bayer’s shareholders refused to approve CEO Baumann’s actions following heavy share losses.
Baumann did not want to comment on the content of the settlement negotiations on Wednesday (30 October).
However, it was clear that Bayer would only agree to a mediation outcome that “makes economic sense and is structured in such a way as to bring the proceedings to a reasonable conclusion,” the CEO emphasised.
In other words, the CEO probably wants all cases brought so far to be settled, or to ensure all future claims are. Analysts expect a settlement framework between €5 and €20 billion.
The most expensive takeover of all time
At €63 billion, the purchase of Monsanto was the most expensive takeover ever made by a German company.
The deal is the result of a change in strategy by Leverkusen-based Bayer, which intends to concentrate on its agricultural and pharmaceutical businesses in the future and is separating from other companies.
The Group has sold off its animal health branch to Elanco Animal Health for $7.6 billion. It also divested its interest in Currenta, an onsite service provider, and sold its foot care brand Dr. Scholl to Yellow Wood Partners. Beiersdorf has already acquired the group’s sun protection Copperstone.
The proceeds will be used to reduce the Group’s debt. Net financial debt currently stands at €37.8 billion.
12,000 job losses
The company’s employees are also feeling the effects of Bayer’s restructuring. The group plans to cut 12,000 jobs worldwide by the end of 2021, 4,500 of them in Germany. So far, 3,200 jobs have already been cut worldwide, 450 of which were in Germany. For the moment, 25,000 people still work for Bayer in Germany, 5,200 of them in Berlin.
Many people in Berlin are active in the field of pharmaceutical research, for which job cuts are also predicted. Over the next few years, 900 jobs in Bayer’s pharmaceutical research sector are to disappear worldwide, 750 of them in Germany. This would affect Berlin and the city of Wuppertal.
Bayer has also confirmed its annual targets for 2019. Baumann continues to anticipate currency-adjusted sales growth of around 4% to about €43.5 billion, and adjusted earnings of approximately €11.5 billion. This figure includes the sale of Bayer’s animal health business and its stake in the chemical park operator Currenta.
In the third quarter, Bayer’s net income declined by 63.9% to €1,036 billion.