Saturday 24 August 2019

Bayer shareholders' revolt over Monsanto losses set to intensify

Werner Baumann, CEO of German pharmaceutical and chemical maker Bayer AG, attends the annual general shareholders meeting in Bonn, Germany. Photo: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Werner Baumann, CEO of German pharmaceutical and chemical maker Bayer AG, attends the annual general shareholders meeting in Bonn, Germany. Photo: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Eyk Henning, Tim Loh and Naomi Kresge

The shareholder rebellion at Bayer is poised to worsen after its supervisory board ignored an unprecedented no-confidence vote against the leadership of chief executive Werner Baumann.

Several top investors of the German chemicals and drugs giant are frustrated with directors' decision to back Mr Baumann and his strategy that led to the $63bn takeover of Monsanto, according to people familiar with the matter.

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The investors consider the move a sign Bayer is unwilling to address shareholder concerns, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

Bayer now needs to consider an overhaul of the oversight board led by Werner Wenning, take a more forthcoming approach in dealing with litigation in the US and conduct a strategic review - including a potential break-up of the conglomerate into crop science and pharmaceutical companies, they said.

At a fractious, 13-hour gathering in Bonn on Friday, more than 55pc of shareholders voted against absolving Mr Baumann and other managers of responsibility for their actions in the takeover of agriculture company Monsanto last year.

Bayer has lost €35bn in market value, due in large part to subsequent lawsuits that allege the main ingredient of Roundup - the weedkiller Bayer acquired through Monsanto - causes cancer.

The lawsuits have multiplied, totalling 13,400 US cases by April 11. Bayer has vowed to fight in court and said there's no scientific proof glyphosate causes cancer.

A Bayer representative declined to comment on investors' call for changes. In an email on Saturday, Mr Baumann sought to reassure employees, saying "we need to maintain our focus on delivering value for our customers", a source said. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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