The pharmaceutical giant has been left reeling in the wake of US lawsuits claiming its weedkiller causes cancer, posting multi-billion euro losses as a result.
Bayer announced on Thursday steep losses for the year 2020 as it struggled to recover from a string of US lawsuits claiming its weedkiller causes cancer.
The German chemical and pharmaceutical giant said in a statement that it posted an annual net loss of €10.5 billion ($12.8 billion), compared with a profit of just over €4 billion for 2019.
Overall sales for 2020 came in roughly unchanged, at €41.4 billion, when adjusted for currency effects, Bayer said.
The group, headquartered in the German city of Leverkusen, was expected to end the year in the red after it agreed last June to set aside around $11 billion to settle a wave of US claims against its weedkiller Roundup.
The coronavirus also had its repercussions, with demand for Bayer's pharmaceutical products falling as the pandemic led to a postponement of non-urgent treatments, the company near Cologne said.
The negative impact was offset, though, by an increase in sales of Bayer's blood thinner Xarelto. Anti-coagulants have emerged as a key treatment for COVID-19.
Elsewhere, Bayer's over-the-counter consumer health division saw revenues increase by more than 5%.
"The greater focus on health and prevention in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic generated substantial growth in demand" across all regions, Bayer said, especially for nutritional and digestive products.
The group noticed a lower demand for its cough and cold medicines, which it attributed to improved hygiene measures as a result of the global pandemic.
Despite Thursday's announcement, Bayer said it expected "solid operational growth" in 2021, as well as stable revenues.
Bayer gave an update on its legal struggles, saying it had now settled roughly 90,000 US lawsuits in relation to Roundup.
The group has been mired in a dispute over the weedkiller since its record acquisition of Monsanto, a US-based seed and chemical company, in 2018.
Bayer, which is not admitting any wrongdoing as part of the settlements, has repeatedly rejected claims that Roundup causes cancer, saying that decades of studies have shown the weedkiller and its main ingredient — glyphosate — to be safe for human use.
Nevertheless, earlier this month Bayer reached a $2 billion (€ 1.7 billion) deal to resolve future legal claims Roundup causes cancer.
The settlement would cover claims brought by people who have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma — a type of cancer — and were exposed to the weedkiller before their diagnosis.
jsi/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)