Bayer shares soar as US court reviews cancer ruling

The logo of German chemicals giant Bayer is seen on flags in Leverkusen. (AFP pic)

FRANKFURT: Shares in chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer surged Thursday, as an American court said it would review a US$290-million ruling against Monsanto issued weeks after the German firm bought the US company.

By 11.50am (0950 GMT), shares in the Leverkusen-based group added 4.3% to trade at 78.23 euros, paring some of the near-6.0-percent gains seen as the Frankfurt stock market opened.

By contrast, the Dax index of blue-chip German shares fell 1.3%.

Monsanto was in August ordered to pay $290 million in damages to a school groundskeeper in the US, after a San Francisco jury found that the company did not do enough to warn the plaintiff of possible carcinogenic effects of its flagship weedkiller Roundup.

With thousands of other cancer patients’ cases against Monsanto pending in the US, the size of the ruling spooked investors, and shares in Bayer are still down 23.6% since January.

But now a judge at a higher court has said she could set aside much of the damages, or even “grant a new trial on grounds of insufficiency of evidence,” Bloomberg News reported.

Pointing to reams of scientific evidence they say shows Roundup’s main ingredient glyphosate is safe, Bayer and Monsanto executives have repeatedly challenged the initial ruling in favour of groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014.

Bayer “continues to believe that the evidence at trial does not support the verdict and the damage awards,” the group said in a statement Thursday.