Bayer aims for 7%-9.6% profit growth in 2020

Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer AG, arrives for the annual results news conference of the German drugmaker in Leverkusen, Germany February 27, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

LEVERKUSEN, Germany (Reuters) – Bayer (BAYGn.DE) said on Thursday it was targeting growth in adjusted core profit of 7% to 9.6% this year, driven by sales of agriculture products and pharmaceuticals, with only the upper end of that range meeting market projections.

Bayer, which is fighting costly lawsuits over claims its glyphosate-based weedkillers cause cancer, laid out a goal for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) adjusted for special items and currency swings to reach 12.3-12.6 billion euros ($13.4-$13.7 billion), up from 11.5 billion euros in 2019.

Analysts had predicted 12.6 billion euros, when measured by a consensus posted on the company’s website, or about 12.5 billion according to Refinitiv data.

Bayer said that its forecast did not yet include any impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

In trading before the 0800 GMT stock market open, Bayer shares were indicated 2.7% lower, slightly underperforming the 2.3% decline in Germany’s bluechip index DAX .GDAXI.

Bayer said the increase in the number of plaintiffs blaming the company’s glyphosate-based weedkillers for their cancer had slowed somewhat, reaching 48,600 as of Feb. 6. In October 2019, the total had more than doubled to 42,700 within just three months.

Bayer said it was continuing talks to “explore whether a settlement could be reached on reasonable terms that would be structured in a way that would bring this entire series of litigations to a reasonable conclusion”.

The company’s fourth-quarter adjusted EBITDA rose 26.4% to 2.48 billion euros, as expected by analysts.

Chairman Werner Wenning, who strongly supported Chief Executive Werner Baumann’s pursuit of Monsanto, on Wednesday said he would step down, turning up the heat on CEO Baumann to resolve the legal problems.

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

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