Shares slide on Monsanto cancer case

Mae Love
August 15, 2018

The verdict against Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in June for $63 billion, has placed a dark cloud over its parent company's shares.

Johnson, diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - a cancer that affects white blood cells - says he repeatedly used a professional form of Roundup while working at a school in Benicia, California.

Monsanto, owned by Germany's Bayer AG, also denies that glyphosate causes cancer and says decades of scientific studies have shown the chemical to be safe for human use.

Jurors awarded Johnson, the groundskeeper, $39 million for his losses and $250 million to punish Monsanto after finding it liable for a design defect and failing to warn of Roundup's risks.

Late last week, US judges found Monsanto guilty of selling the glyphosate-based weed killer "Roundup" without adequately warning consumers that it could cause cancer. It did not negotiate any payments from Monsanto shareholders for Roundup-related litigation.

Leverkusen-based Bayer's shares fell by 11% on Monday in early morning trading in Europe - and continued to tumble by almost 14% by lunchtime to 80.49 euros (£72) per share, the worst performing stock on the Stoxx Europe 600 index.

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The verdict surprised Bayer investors and may stir up memories of the scandal over cholesterol-lowering pill Lipobay, said Markus Mayer, an analyst with Baader Bank. On top of that astronomical number, there is an estimated 4,000 similar cases throughout the United States.

Discovered by the Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970, patent-free glyphosate herbicides are now sold by the global crop protection industry despite the dispute over its safety.

Shares in Bayer dove more than 11% Monday after a landmark ruling against Monsanto, a U.S. agriculture giant owned by the German pharma giant. Partridge said scientific studies and two government agencies have concluded that Roundup does not cause cancer.

In Europe, the EU Commission in December drew criticism for renewing the licence for glyphosate. The products of the US agrochemical company will instead become fully-integrated into Bayer's own marketing portfolio.

Glyphosate-exposed stocks also plunged in Asia and particularly in Australia where a withering drought has already hit herbicide sales.

Macquarie Bank analysts estimate Nufarm earns about a fifth of its revenue from products containing glyphosate, the world's most widely-used herbicide. "We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others".

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