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Bayer Takes the Hit After Monsanto Loses Roundup Cancer Trial
USAgNet - 08/14/2018

Two months after clinching its $66 billion purchase of Monsanto Co., Bayer AG faces a protracted legal battle over the U.S. company's Roundup weed killer -- a prospect that wiped more than $11 billion off the German conglomerate's market value.

According to Bloomberg, Bayer shares plunged the most in almost seven years after Monsanto was socked with $289 million in damages in the first trial over claims that the herbicide causes cancer. Now a deal Bayer pursued to keep pace with DowDuPont Inc. and China National Chemical Corp. is turning into a potentially expensive quagmire.

The verdict in favor of a California school groundskeeper who said exposure to Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- which Bayer denies -- is just one of thousands of cases related to the weed killer that are working their way through the courts. If more go against the German company, the costs could be "ruinous," Sanford C. Bernstein analysts led by Jonas Oxgaard said in a note.

Bayer said it will appeal and U.S. jury awards against companies are often overturned or reduced. Still, the shares fell as much as 14 percent as investors were reminded of a previous legal debacle, when the company paid more than $1.1 billion to settle suits over the heart drug Lipobay in 2005.

Bayer closed its acquisition of Monsanto in June after a two-year antitrust review. Despite disposal of some of its businesses to BASF SE, it emerged as the biggest seed and agricultural chemicals maker in the world, alongside its drugmaking operations.

The reliance of the U.S. company -- and now, its German acquirer -- on Roundup extends far beyond just selling it as a weed killer. Monsanto genetically engineered the DNA of corn, soybeans and other crops to make them resistant to Roundup; it now makes more revenue from seeds and traits than it does from herbicide.

Roundup, introduced in 1974 and based on a chemical called glyphosate, has long been controversial. While it became the world's most popular and widely used herbicide, the question of whether it causes cancer has been hotly debated by environmentalists, regulators, researchers and lawyers -- even as Monsanto has insisted for decades that it's perfectly safe.

Monsanto has already announced that it will appeal the California jury's verdict blaming the weed killer for a man's cancer and awarding him $289 million.

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