Bayer CEO says he will not break up the company for now

Credit: REUTERS/TOM KAECKENHOFF

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT, March 5 (Reuters) - Bayer BAYGn.DE said on Tuesday it will hold off on plans to break up the diversified group to focus instead on improving the operating performance, resolving litigation and paying off debt.

"Our answer is 'not now' – and this shouldn't be misunderstood as 'never'," CEO Bill Anderson said in a statement.

The company said that for the next 24 to 36 months it would seek to strengthen the drug development pipeline, address litigation, reduce debt, and to further pursue job cuts and speed up decision making by managers.

The cutbacks will reduce annual costs by 2 billion euros from 2026, it added.

CEO Bill Anderson, who was hired last year to reverse the company's fortunes, previously said he was examining options to separate, spin off or sell businesses. He faces a deluge of problems, most of which stem from the 2018 takeover of Monsanto for $63 billion.

These include U.S. litigation alleging harm from weed-killer glyphosate, a development setback for its most promising experimental medicine, weak agriculture markets and investor pressure to spin off or sell businesses.

The CEO added he was "considering every possible means to bring closure" to U.S. lawsuits claiming that glyphosate has caused cancer in plaintiffs.

Bayer would vigorously defend itself but also look at the problem "from every angle, inside and outside the courtroom".

"Expect more action from Bayer in this space," Anderson said.

About 54,000 cases remain outstanding, after 113,000 claims were settled or found not eligible, according to an annual report.

Bayer has also not been able to shake off personal injury or environmental damage claims linked to polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which are Monsanto-made chemicals no longer in use.

To shore up its finances, that German drugmaker has slashed dividends, keeping what analysts estimate would have been combined payouts of 6-7 billion euros over three years.

Investors have seen the company's value sink by two thirds since the Monsanto takeover, which saddled it with costly litigation and debt.

Bayer's net debt at the end of 2023 was up 8.5% to 34.5 billion euros. That burden has led some analysts to conclude a capital increase may become necessary.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; editing by Bartosz Dabrowski and Jason Neely)

((ludwig.burger@thomsonreuters.com; +49 30 220133634;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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