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World Economic Forum

Interview: Marco Vollmar (jen)January 28, 2008

Werner Wenning, board chairman of German drugs giant Bayer, spoke with Deutsche Welle at the close of the World Economic Forum in Davos about government securities, regulation, and the need for market transparency.

Werner Wenning, chairman of Bayer, in 2005 at a shareholders' meeting
Companies like Bayer do not need regimentation, Wenning saidImage: dpa

The 61-year-old Werner Wenning started his career at Bayer in 1966 as a management assistant. After stints in Lima, Leverkusen, Germany, and Barcelona, he became board chairman of Bayer AG in 2002. Under his leadership in 2006, Bayer bought Schering AG for some 17 billion euros ($25 billion). Wenning is married and has two adult daughters.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Wenning, what did you think of this year's World Economic Forum?

Werner Wenning: Very positive. Of course, this year's topics were very interesting. Financial and stock market crises, the topic of government securities, climate change -- but I could also focus on topics that aren't on my daily agenda. I met a lot of very interesting people in a very short period of time. For instance, I was among a small group of people who met with Israeli President Shimon Peres. For me, Davos was very successful.

A big topic in Davos was the influence of so-called government security funds. Since these funds are now valued at more than $2.5 trillion, the USA, France and Germany all want to increase control over foreign investment. Is this necessary?

No. In Germany we live from exports, from free trade. We also live from the fact that capital markets are free and not regimented. So, I think the discussion goes overboard. Companies like ours do not need regimentation.

Schering logo with Bayer aspirin box mockup image
Bayer merged with Schering in 2006Image: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

The government's main argument in favor of stronger controls over foreign investment is that it provides a nation with security. But when is national security in danger? And how should we judge when that is, or is not, the case?

Of course, we should always ask ourselves which strategic sectors are important in terms of a country's security. The arms industry is a good example. And there is a question of a country's sovereignty, seen in a global context. In this case, every country must define criteria by which it can negotiate, in relation to its industrial culture.

I think we should have as little legal interference as possible. We know what is going on when we deal as openly as possible with the financial markets. I advocate international agreements and the greatest possible transparency. We welcome every long-term investor who is interested in increased share value.

What is on the agenda for Bayer in 2008? Are more acquisitions planned?

Well, the world keeps on turning. We plan to build up our healthcare business. M&A (mergers and acquisitions) is part of our portfolio management, and it will continue to be so.