The Bayer Aktiengesellschaft – or Bayer AG – was established in 1863 in Barmen, Germany. It is a diversified chemical-pharmaceutical company with its headquarters in Leverkusen. Bayer is known worldwide for its most famous contribution to the world of medicine – aspirin. According to the World Health Organization, aspirin is one of the essential drugs, inevitable for any basic health system. Today, “Aspirin” is still Bayer’s registered trademark in more than 80 countries.
Three core segments
The company’s total revenues in 2022 stood at 50.7 billion euros. This amount was generated by three major segments: Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Health, and Crop Science. The material science segment under the name Covestro was spun-off during 2015. Today, the health-related segments make up around 50 percent of Bayer’s total revenue. Bayer’s best-selling pharmaceutical products are anticoagulant Xarelto and fusion protein Eylea, generating 4.5 billion and 3.2 billion U.S. dollars, respectively.
The Monsanto deal
Since 2016, Bayer has had increased media attention due to the announced acquisition of U.S. agrochemical company Monsanto. This was especially because the merger of these two companies would create the leading seeds and agrochemical company, with a monopolistic position worldwide. Because of the antitrust proceedings, the merger was pending for a long time. However, Bayer received ‘green light’ from all relevant authorities until May 2018, and the deal was closed in June 2018 - under certain restrictions. Monsanto has struggled with a negative reputation, largely based on the production of controversial herbicides and genetically manipulated seeds. In line with this, the whole mega-merger of Bayer and Monsanto was widely criticized.
With the acquisition of Monsanto, Bayer also ‘inherited’ huge problems – in the form of lawsuits regarding the company’s herbicide glyphosate (brand name: Roundup). The World Health Organization classifies glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans”, although scientific evidence, so far, is inconclusive. However, a whole wave of lawsuits against Monsanto/Bayer started from 2018 onwards, claiming glyphosate to be liable for cancer in humans. As of now, the company has already paid a double-digit billion-dollar amount to plaintiffs, and up to 30,000 lawsuits are still open. While the carcinogenicity of the product is still a matter of discussion, one of the main arguments by judges against Monsanto was that the company suppressed evidence of potential health risks and tried to manipulate the public about the product’s safety.
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