Bayer says it makes progress in settlement talks over weedkiller

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Bayer (BAYGn.DE) said on Monday it had made progress seeking a settlement over claims its glyphosate-based Roundup weedkiller causes cancer, after Bloomberg reported the company reached a verbal agreement on about 50,000 to 85,000 cases.

FILE PHOTO: A bridge is decorated with the logo of a Bayer AG, a German pharmaceutical and chemical maker in Wuppertal, Germany August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The drugs and pesticides group is keen to draw a line under the legal dispute, which it inherited via its $63 billion (£52 billion) takeover of Monsanto in 2018. In April, Bayer’s management regained shareholder support for its handling of the litigation process.

Bloomberg cited people familiar with the negotiations as saying that the deals have yet to be signed and Bayer is likely to announce the settlements in June.

“We’ve made progress in the Roundup mediation discussions under the auspices of Ken Feinberg, but in keeping with the confidentiality of this process, the company will not speculate about settlement outcomes or timing,” a Bayer spokesman said, referring to a court-appointed mediator.

Bayer’s shares rose 4.8% to 60.41 euros at 0734 GMT, recouping losses over the previous three trading sessions.

Bloomberg reported the overall number of U.S. cancer lawsuits stood at 125,000, including tens of thousands being held in abeyance by plaintiffs’ lawyers under agreements with Bayer.

Bayer said in April it has been served with cases in court from 52,500 U.S. plaintiffs who blame Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers for their cancer, up from 48,600 in February.

The Bayer spokesman said potential plaintiffs with unserved cases accounted for the difference but he said the company expected more claims to be filed in court because lawyers have advertised heavily to recruit plaintiffs.

“For several reasons, many claims gathered by lawyers will not be compensable in a settlement programme,” he added.

Bloomberg reported the verbal agreements were part of a prospective $10 billion deal package, which would include $2 billion for any future cases that are brought after the deal.

Bayer said in February that the average analyst prediction of a settlement was for about $10 billion and that Bayer would not have to write down the value of the Monsanto acquisition in case of such a deal with plaintiffs.

Bloomberg said that under terms of the prospective deals, Roundup would continue to be sold in the United States and plaintiffs’ attorneys would agree to stop taking new cases or advertising for new clients.

Reporting by Ludwig Burger; editing by Thomas Seythal and Jane Merriman

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