German chemical giant Bayer posted a sharp loss in 2020 following the legal battles it has faced over its Roundup weedkiller, the Jakarta Post reported on 25 February.

The group said in a statement on 25 February that it had posted a loss of US$12.8bn (€10.5bn) in 2020 compared with a net profit of just over US$4.82bn (€4bn) the previous year.

Overall sales for 2020 were roughly unchanged at US$49.9bn (€41.4bn), when adjusted for currency effects, Bayer said.

The company had set aside around US$11bn in June 2020 to settle a wave of US cancer lawsuits involving its glyphosate-based Roundup weedkiller.

Bayer inherited the lawsuits in 2018 following its US$63bn purchase of global agrochemical firm Monsanto.

The company has consistently denied claims that Roundup or its active ingredient glyphosate causes cancer, saying decades of independent studies have shown the product is safe for human use.

Bayer said the COVID-19 pandemic had also affected the group’s pharmaceutical sales as the crisis had led to the postponement of non-urgent treatments.

Looking ahead, Bayer said it expected “solid operational growth” in 2021 and stable revenues.

The company also gave an update on its legal battles linked to Roundup, saying it had now settled around 90,000 US lawsuits and continued to negotiate with plaintiffs’ counsel to reach agreements in the remainder of current cases.

In February 2021, the group had revised part of the settlement package covering future Roundup litigation after a Californian judge blocked the initial proposal, The Jakarta Post wrote, and the company was still waiting for court approval of its improved US$2bn offer.

Under the proposed plan, Bayer would provide US$2bn for a four-year period as compensation and to cover outreach and diagnostic assistant, Reuters reported on 3 February. Future claimants could receive up to US$200,000 under the deal.

The parties could also agree to extend the settlement period.

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide and Roundup is used in combination with Bayer’s genetically modified seeds, including soyabeans and corn, which are resistant to it.