Bayer sees surge in glyphosate lawsuits

Lawsuits claiming that Bayer’s Monsanto glyphosate Roundup weedkiller causes cancer has surged to 42,700 US plaintiffs from 18,400 recorded in July.

Bayer recorded the spike in claims as it reported a 7.5% rise in third-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to €2.3bn (US$2.6bn), in line with market expectations, Reuters wrote on 30 October.

The German pharmaceuticals giant has lost US$30bn in market value since it acquired US agrochemicals company Monsanto – Roundup’s original manufacturer – for US$63bn last year.

Bayer warned investors of a surge in cases in October, saying the prospect of a settlement was fanning efforts by lawyers to recruit plaintiffs.

Television advertising from attorneys seeking clients was about twice as high in the third quarter as in the first half, the company said.

However, the firm had benefitted from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision in August to no longer approve labels claiming that glyphosate was known to cause cancer, said Holly Froum, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence who also maintained her estimate for a potential settlement value as high as US$10bn.

CEO Werner Baumann said: “There is extremely strong support among farmers, who are imploring us to keep this crop chemical on the market.”

He added that third-quarter herbicide sales were roughly on par with the year-earlier level.

The company’s shares were up 1.9% but stocks had lost about 30% in value since last August, when a California jury in the first glyphosate lawsuit found that Monsanto should have warned of the alleged cancer risks associated with Roundup.

Bayer was expecting €11.5bn (US$12.7bn) in full year EBITDA before special items, down from €12.2bn (US$13.5bn) estimated in July, Reuters reported.

Pareto Securities analyst Dennis Berzhanin modelled €8bn (US$8.9bn) in potential damages, twice as much as his old estimate, Claims Journal wrote.

Reuters said Bayer had ruled out withdrawing from the US market and was awaiting appeals due next year to reverse the first three court rulings against it.

The next Roundup trial was scheduled for 15 January in California, followed by one in Missouri later that month.