Bayer © Image author: CEM GUENES
Bayer © Image author: CEM GUENES

German chemical giant Bayer has called off plans to break up the group for up to three years to allow the new chief executive officer (CEO) to focus on issues including debt and litigation, Reuters reported.

“On the question of structure, our answer is ‘not now’ – and this shouldn’t be misunderstood as ‘never’. Of course, we will keep an open mind. But our priority is on tackling our challenges, boosting performance and creating strategic flexibility,” Anderson was quoted as saying on a media call.

Anderson, who was appointed last year to turn the business around, had previously said he was looking at options to separate, spin off or sell businesses, the 5 March report said.

However, for the next 24 to 36 months Anderson said the company’s priorities would be to strengthen the pharmaceutical development pipeline, address litigation, reduce debt and to further pursue job cuts and speed up decision making by managers.

The cutbacks would reduce annual costs by €2bn (US$2.2bn) from 2026, the company were quoted as saying.

Anderson faced a range of problems, most of which were related to Bayer’s 2018 US$63bn takeover of Monsanto and its herbicide brand Roundup, which had resulted in the company facing multi-million dollar lawsuits alleging that its glyphosate-based weedkiller had caused cancer in plaintiffs, Reuters wrote.

Other issues include a development setback for a new experimental medicine, weak agriculture markets and investor pressure to spin off or sell businesses, according to the report.

With a number of upcoming cases this year, Anderson said the company were looking to appoint a litigation expert to its supervisory board.

Anderson added he was “considering every possible means to bring closure” to the US glyphosate lawsuits.

Bayer would vigorously defend itself but also look for solutions “outside the courtroom”, he added, saying more action was to come without giving further details.

About 54,000 cases remained outstanding, even though US and European regulators had labelled the product safe to use, the report said.

The company forecast that 2024 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) would total between €10.7bn-€11.3bn (US$11.68bn-US$12.33bn) on a currency-adjusted basis, down from €11.7bn (US$12.77bn) the previous year.

Last year’s sales totalled €47.6bn (US$51.6bn) and the company said it expected sales of €47bn-€49bn (US$51.32bn-US$53.50bn) in 2024.