The headache caused by one of the worst takeovers in corporate history is not lifting. german conglomerate bayer bet big on crop science when it took over monsanto of the us in 2018. now the pandemics deeper-than-expected toll has forced a several billion euro writedown of its agricultural assets. the news sent the share price down more than a tenth on thursday.
Bayers market value of 47bn is now less than 40 per cent of its 2015 peak and less than the $63bn it paid for monsanto. the shares are priced at eight times forward earnings, not much more than half the average of european pharmaceutical companies. that sort of discount would normally appeal to bargain hunters. in june last year, activist investor elliott management hinted it would favour a break-up, identifying 30bn of potential value.
But it is hard to see what would trigger a near-term turnround in investor sentiment. on thursday citigroup threw in the towel on its long-suffering buy recommendation.bayer has no intention of changing strategy or structure. last month, it extended the contract of boss werner baumann until 2024.
Why is not clear. bayers problem is not just the deterioration in the crop divisions prospects. the pharma arms pipeline is also weak. expect a dividend cut. bayer has signalled the payout will be at the low end of the typical 30 per cent to 40 per cent of core earnings.
Moreover, uncertainty lingers about the resolution of lawsuits over weedkiller roundup. last week bayer said it was making significant progress. but even when the settlements are finalised the saga might affect its performance on the environmental, social and governance factors that play a growing role in investment decisions.
At least the consumer health business is looking up. bayer expects it to outpace peer growth in the coming years. but this unit has made up less than 15 per cent of divisional revenues. the division makes aspirin, but its recovery will not be enough to relieve shareholders pain.
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