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Bayer calls off break-up to tackle challenges for up to 3 years

The Bayer AG logo sits behind silhouetted members of the management board during the company’s annual general meeting in Bonn, Germany, May 25, 2018.

Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Bayer 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.

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. Reuters reported last month that no such action was on the cards for now.

The CEO 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 company guided that 2024 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) would slip to between 10.7 billion and 11.3 billion euros on a currency-adjusted basis, down from 11.7 billion in 2023.

A consensus posted on the company’s website showed analysts on average were expecting this year’s earnings to be at the lower bound of the target range, while last year’s figure was better than expected.

The shares were little changed after the 0800 GMT open.

The CEO added he was “considering every possible means to bring closure” to U.S. lawsuits claiming that glyphosate has caused cancer in plaintiffs. That litigation wave is a key factor behind the company’s loss of value by two thirds since the Monsanto takeover.

Bayer would vigorously defend itself but also look for solutions “outside the courtroom”. It said more action was to come but it did not specify.

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

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. The company said it would seek to reduce net debt by 1-2 billion this year.

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