Bayer AG Chief Executive Officer Bill Anderson said nothing is off the table as he reviews the company’s strategy and structure in his first months in the job in preparation for unveiling a new plan early next year.
(Bloomberg) — Bayer AG Chief Executive Officer Bill Anderson said nothing is off the table as he reviews the company’s strategy and structure in his first months in the job in preparation for unveiling a new plan early next year.
Management is spending most of its time on strategy and corporate structure, he said at the start of his first earnings webcast Tuesday. He pledged to give detailed plans and financial targets for Bayer at the start of 2024.
“We have to do better to win back your trust,” said Anderson, who began as CEO in June. “We haven’t realized our full potential.”
The new CEO will need to decide whether to continue Bayer’s conglomerate structure, which combines crop science, pharmaceutical and consumer-health divisions. Bloomberg has reported that activist investor Bluebell Capital Partners has built a stake in the company and is pushing for a breakup.
Bayer shares rose as much as 1.5%, erasing an earlier decline, following the CEO’s comments. Earlier the stock had dropped after the company reduced its revenue forecasts for the crop science and pharma divisions. The shares have lost almost two-thirds of their value since a peak in 2015.
Read more: Bayer Lowers Revenue Forecasts for Crops and Drugs Units
Anderson’s predecessor Werner Baumann was a staunch defender of the current setup after spending $63 billion in 2018 on crops giant Monsanto. The deal saddled Bayer with massive legal headaches related to the Roundup weedkiller, which faced claims it causes cancer.
As Anderson and his team mulls the future, they need to be convinced that the three divisions are all best served by being part of Bayer, he said.
After touring the company’s operations around the globe in recent months, Anderson said he heard some complaints about how quickly the company implements things.
“We get high marks for the mission and for the science and for the innovative ideas, but sometimes something gets lost between that and delivering it to the customer fast,” he said. The management board is now focused on trying to “radically accelerate everything” at the company.
Bayer doesn’t have a big war chest and Anderson said he prefers to be disciplined about M&A. The industry hasn’t had a lot of success in big acquisitions of late-stage experimental medicines, and Bayer prefers to focus on internal innovation and deals for earlier-stage assets for that business.
The company has been distracted by litigation, debt and bureaucracy, the new CEO said. Bayer needs to be “very tough” against its legal opponents and the “number one way to pay down debt is to outperform.”
Anderson also said he sees huge potential improvements in improving Bayer’s management setup — by freeing people up from old-school bureaucratic hierarchy and allowing for more autonomy and faster decision-making.
“You can tell I’m a little excited about that,” he said. “No matter what we decide about structure, we’ve got a huge opportunity to unleash the potential of the people at Bayer.”
(Updates with shares in fifth paragraph, CEO comments from seventh)
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