Bayer CEO Tries to Calm Fears Over Monsanto Verdict
Bayer AG Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann sought to soothe investors’ worries after a $289 million jury award over the controversial weed-killer Roundup, saying the $66 billion purchase of Monsanto Co. still makes sense.
There is “no reason to break out in nervousness” in the aftermath of the Aug. 10 verdict, Baumann told Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper in his first interview since the jury’s decision. “The fact is that absolutely nothing has changed about the compelling logic of the Monsanto takeover, about the potential for value creation for our shareholders, about the attractiveness of the agriculture market and about the goals we have communicated.”
The California court awarded a school groundskeeper the damages over claims that exposure to Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The trial was the first over allegations that the herbicide causes cancer. Bayer has said it will appeal, and U.S. jury awards against companies are often overturned or reduced. But the German company could still face as much as $5 billion in costs linked to cases over glyphosate,the main ingredient in Roundup, analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. estimate.
The verdict -- the first of what may be thousands of cases -- shocked observers both inside and outside Bayer, erasing $16 billion from the company’s market value in a week. Baumann has contended that facts should rule over emotion in the debate over whether Roundup causes cancer.
The CEO reiterated that point on Thursday, telling Handelsblatt that decades of experience and regulatory review show that glyphosate is safe.
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