Bayer Crop Science’s first quarter sales and profitability have increased sharply year-on-year following its ongoing integration of the Monsanto business, even allowing for divestments required by competition regulators. But exposure to Monsanto’s legacy glyphosate claims has rocked the German multinational’s share price and annual meeting.
The Crop Science division made an EBIT figure of €996 million on revenues of €6.44bn in the three months to March 31st 2019, compared to €892m and €2.86bn in Q1 2018. The revenue figure is after the divestment of assets to satisfy competition regulators that generating €909m in Q1 2018.
Like-for-like sales rose by 5.5% overall, with the strongest performance in North and South America. Sales in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region were 1.3% higher, with double-digit growth for insecticides driven by favourable weather and product launches and growth for herbicides, again for weather-related reasons. But seed treatment sales declined through the loss of product registrations in Europe, and fungicides were also down, particularly in the German and Ukraine markets.
Bayer says it now faces 11,2019, lawsuits from approximately 13,400 plaintiffs in the US claiming damages from exposure to glyphosate-based products manufactured by Monsanto.
Earlier this year, a jury in a California court case awarded around $5m in compensatory and $75m in punitive damages to a plaintiff claiming that a Monsanto product caused his ill health. Bayer is seeking a trial review and appeal. “We continue to believe that we have meritorious defenses and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously in all of these lawsuits,” says a company statement. Another four trials are currently scheduled in Missouri and Montana for the remainder of 2019.
However, trial dates in all venues remain subject to change depending on court schedules and rulings.
Bayer shares have ranged from €109 last June when the Monsanto transaction was completed, to a low of €52 when the Q1 2019 results were released, although they have since recovered some ground at €59 per share. The loss in capital value was enough for a majority – 55% of investors present – to vote no confidence in the management board at last week’s AGM. While this is unprecedented for the company, the vote is not binding.
The Bayer Animal Health division, which is reportedly up for sale, posted very similar profit and sales figures to Q1 2018 with an EBITA before special items of €140 million (+ 0.7%) on revenues that were 0.9% down to €421m.