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Roundup lawsuits drain cash at Bayer

Legal outlays expected to climb to $2B by TIM LOH AND JOEL ROSENBLATT BLOOMBERG NEWS | November 4, 2020 at 2:00 a.m.

Bayer's legal bills to contain the fallout over the weedkiller Roundup keep rising with costs to handle future lawsuits expected to surge to $2 billion.

The German drugs and chemicals maker is far enough along in talks with U.S. plaintiff attorneys to realize that the outlay will be higher than anticipated in June, it said in a statement Tuesday. Bayer also reported profit and sales that missed estimates as the pandemic hurt demand for key agriculture and pharmaceutical products. The shares fell 0.37% in Frankfurt.

The Roundup litigation continues to vex chief executive Werner Baumann, who orchestrated the $63 billion takeover of Monsanto that gave Bayer the embattled herbicide. The company failed to settle outstanding Roundup lawsuits by Monday, a deadline set by a judge who has said he'll resume federal trials over claims the weedkiller caused consumers' cancer.

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Bayer remains committed to settling all the Roundup cases, it said in a separate statement. Given the progress so far and complications posed by the pandemic, the company doesn't expect trials to occur, if at all, before the third quarter of 2021, it said in the email.

In its earnings report, Bayer also reported noncash impairment charges of $10.9 billion on crop science assets. That's at the higher end of the range Bayer flagged in September.

The company said Tuesday that it has Roundup agreements that are completed, in the process of being finalized or that have been reached "in principle" for 88,500 claims -- but that it can't say with certainty that the total number of existing Roundup suits is 125,000 until the entire settlement process is complete. The company is in talks with a large number of the remaining plaintiffs, Baumann told reporters on a call.

Bayer expects to reach an agreement with plaintiff attorneys about how to handle future Roundup cases and to seek preliminary approval for that pact within weeks, he added.


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