LEVERKUSEN/LONDON (dpa-AFX) - Tuesday, March 5, will be an exciting day for Bayer shareholders. Bill Anderson, Chairman of the Board of Management since June, will then present his plans for the future of the agrochemical and pharmaceutical company. In recent months, Bayer has probably played through many scenarios, including that of a split-up. The business figures and the outlook for 2024, which are also on the agenda on Tuesday, are likely to take a back seat.

The DAX-listed company is under pressure due to numerous legal disputes in the USA surrounding the weedkiller glyphosate and the environmental toxin PCB, which has been banned for decades. Both issues are a legacy of the US agrochemical group Monsanto, whose takeover was pushed through by Anderson's predecessor Werner Baumann against the opposition of quite a few investors.

The disputes surrounding the alleged cancer risks of glyphosate in particular have already cost billions and there have recently been a number of defeats in court. In addition, the agricultural business has been sluggish recently and an important drug study in the pharmaceuticals division flopped. There is a lack of money for major takeovers to strengthen the pharmaceutical business.

The share price recently fell to its lowest level since 2005, with losses totaling around 70 percent since the first defeat in a US glyphosate trial in the summer of 2018 alone. Bayer is now only valued at around 28 billion euros on the stock market. In comparison: the Monsanto takeover cost 60 billion US dollars. At the current exchange rate, that is a good 55 billion euros.

Anderson is supposed to do the job - and the American has already started. To ease the financial pressure, he cut the dividend. In addition, the administration is being streamlined and decision-making processes are to be accelerated.

Many management positions are likely to be eliminated. "There are still twelve layers between me and our customers," Anderson said back in November. "That's just too much. (...) In the future, practically everyone in the company will work in small, self-managed teams that focus on one customer or one product - just like a small business owner would." "Dynamic Shared Ownership" is the name of the concept.

Tuesday will now be a test for Anderson. Expectations are high. Investors want a solution to the glyphosate problem, a revival of the pharma division's drug pipeline and, above all, they want to know what the future Group structure will look like. Even among experts, there is a great deal of uncertainty. The only thing that seems clear is that there will be no split into three parts in the near future. Anderson had already said this in the fall.

Shortly before the Capital Markets Day, there was further movement at Bayer with two important announcements. The activist investor Jeffrey Ubben is to join the Supervisory Board. At the same time, the head of the Consumer Health division, Heiko Schipper, is to leave Bayer at the end of April. Julio Triana, a Bayer veteran, will then take over the management of the division.

Both steps signaled possible strategic changes, said analyst Emily Field of Barclays Bank. She considers a sale of the Consumer Health division to be more likely than before. If Bayer were considering a divestment of the business, it would have made sense for Schipper to continue running the division. However, a sale to a financial investor appears to be a more likely option, should a spin-off ever take place.

However, "Handelsblatt" (Friday), citing a person familiar with the matter, writes that Schipper's departure has nothing to do with the Group structure. According to the report, he wanted to become head of Bayer, but was not offered the job and is now leaving. From May, the manager will head the nutrition division of the consumer and food group Unilever.

Analyst Richard Vosser from the US bank JPMorgan believes that major structural changes are unlikely, at least for the time being. He had already said this recently. The difficulties in the pharmaceutical and agricultural business are currently too great and the price for Consumer Health would probably be rather unattractive compared to the long-term prospects of the division.

The Handelsblatt also writes that there will be no demerger for the time being, again citing insiders. Instead, the Capital Markets Day will focus on targets and return promises with which the Management Board intends to improve development and rapidly reduce debt. However, successes would then also have to be demonstrated, otherwise the Group structure would quickly be called into question again./mis/niw/he

--- By Michael Schilling, dpa-AFX ---