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Bayer to Closely Examine All Business Areas

Ahead of its listing on Wall Street, the German chemicals giant sorts "value-enhancers" and "value-destroyers".


From Düsseldorf to Wall Street

Bayer AG plans to raise its return on sales to more than 15 percent by 2005 through "internal growth in profitable areas", chairman Manfred Schneider said ahead of the chemicals giant's listing on Wall Street on Thursday.

The target is ambitious. In the 2000 boom year, operating return before special items came in at 11 percent. But with the aid of its new four-pillar structure, the group expects to top this result as early as next year.

Bayer will become a holding company with four independent subsidiaries – healthcare, agrochemicals, polymers and chemicals. The group has previously said that it plans to divest individual units, for example flavors and fragrances company Haarmann & Reimer.

A number of potential buyers for the unit have already lined up. Industry insiders said that German chemicals group Degussa AG and Switzerland's Givaudan have expressed interest. News agency Reuters reported that a U.S. investor from the sector and several financial investors were also participating in the bidding process.

Bayer previously said that it expects to raise proceeds of more than €1.5 billion from a sale of Haarmann & Reimer.

Werner Wenning, the group's chief financial officer and designated chairman, does not rule out further restructuring at Bayer. The four-pillar structure was aimed at making the group more transparent. "Value-enhancers and value-destroyers will in future be more easily identified," he said.

But top of the group's To Do list this year will be to find a partner for its health care and chemicals subsidiaries. This search has so far proved difficult, particularly in health care.

Analysts had expected Bayer to make an announcement on a partnership before its Wall Street debut. But no such news was forthcoming on Tuesday.

Bayer is pursuing three objectives with its New York listing: winning U.S. shareholders, introducing employee stock options, and creating currency for takeovers. Schneider said the group currently had no definite acquisition plans.

Like many other German groups listed on Wall Streets, shares in Bayer will be traded as American Depository Receipts (ADR). But turnover in ADRs is often weak. Analysts said that shares like Bayer's were only one of thousands of investment opportunities in the United States. Therefore it was up to the group to improve investor relations to reach new shareholders across the whole of the country.

Bayer is interested in particular in winning U.S. pension funds as shareholders. At present, U.S. investors hold around 8 percent of the group's capital.

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