Bayer shares soars on report of proposed US$8 bil Roundup settlement

More than 18,000 lawsuits were filed in the US against Bayer as it has been determined to cause cancer. (Bloomberg pic)

LONDON: Bayer shares soared as much as 11% on Friday on a report that the German company has proposed to pay up to US$8 billion to settle more than 18,000 US lawsuits related to its glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup.

The stock was on track for its best single-day gain in a decade as traders said the settlement report from Bloomberg could relieve pressure on Bayer shares.

Bayer shares have lost more than a third, or roughly €30 billion (US$34 billion), in market value since August last year, when a California jury in the first such lawsuit found that Monsanto should have warned of the alleged cancer risks from Roundup.

Bayer acquired Monsanto in a US$63 billion deal last year.

The German drugs and pesticides company has engaged in negotiations with plaintiffs’ lawyers, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Bayer’s Chief Executive Werner Baumann last week said the company would consider settling with US plaintiffs only on reasonable terms, and if such a move wraps up all cases.

He also said at the time the group was “constructively engaging” in a court-ordered process with mediator Ken Feinberg on the cases heard in federal court.

Most of the pending cases, however, have been filed with US state courts.

The company, which says regulators and extensive research have found glyphosate to be safe, has previously said it was banking on US appeals courts to reverse or tone down three initial court rulings that have so far awarded tens of millions of dollars to each plaintiff.

A Bayer spokesman declined to comment.

Bloomberg cited three sources familiar with the discussions as saying that Bayer’s lawyers are seeking an accord to resolve all current and future cases.

While Bayer has indicated it could pay US$6-US$8 billion, plaintiffs’ lawyers want more than US$10 billion to drop their claims, the report said.

At 0855 GMT, the shares were up 7.2% at €67.5, the top gainer on Germany’s blue chip DAX 30 index.

The number of US plaintiffs blaming Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers for their cancer continued to rise by 5,000 to 18,400, as a litigation wave that has crushed the group’s market value showed no sign of letting up.