Seed World

How Bayer has Weathered the Covid Storm

Norbert Winkeljohann (right), Chairman of the Supervisory Board, and Werner Baumann, Chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer AG, greet each other before the start of the 2021 online Annual Stockholders’ Meeting.

After the long year that was 2020, Bayer has announced stable operational development despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That shows very clearly that we are active in the right industries. After all, few things are more important to people than health and nutrition,” said Werner Baumann, chairman of the board of management, at the company’s Annual Stockholders’ Meeting on Tuesday. “And that’s where we can make a decisive contribution. We’re optimistic for the future.”

Baumann says Bayer’s priority will continue to be customers and ensuring the safety and health of its employees throughout the globe.


Group sales in 2020 totaled 41.4 billion euros and grew by 0.6% after adjusting for currency and portfolio effects. EBITDA before special items, at 11.5 billion euros, and core earnings per share from continuing operations, at 6.39 euros, also remained stable despite sharply negative currency effects. However, Bayer had massive extraordinary charges to contend with, leading to a net loss for the Group of 10.5 billion euros despite the stable operational development.

Namely, these special charges were related to litigations in the U.S. and impairment losses recognized at Crop Science. Previously, Bayer announced settlements totaling about $12 billion, with the greatest part of this amount — $9.6 billion — relating to the existing glyphosate lawsuits. The company has settled a majority of these claims.

Despite the extraordinary charges, Bayer is maintaining its dividend policy of distributing between 30 and 40 percent of core earnings per share. The Board of Management and Supervisory Board have proposed to the Annual Stockholders’ Meeting that a dividend of 2.00 euros per share entitled to the dividend be paid for fiscal 2020.

“In the agriculture business, in particular, we see a market environment that gives us an increasingly positive perspective,” Baumann assured the stockholders: “We want to regain your trust. We’re working hard to do that. And we will deliver.”

Supervisory Board Chairman Norbert Winkeljohann and the entire Board of Management of Bayer at the company’s Annual Stockholders’ Meeting 2021 in Leverkusen, Germany.

Future Growth and Innovation

Baumann emphasized that all three of Bayer’s divisions are set to grow and increase their earning power, reconfirming the mid-term targets presented by the Board of Management at the Capital Markets Day in March. He said that in the area of agriculture, no company worldwide puts more money into research and development than Bayer. Last year alone, the company commercialized ten new crop protection formulations and developed three important biotechnology products to market-readiness. The leading digital farming platform Climate FieldView is now being used on over 60 million hectares of land worldwide. In the seeds area, farmers across the world were offered more than 430 new varieties of corn, soybeans, cotton and vegetables.

While COVID-19 was top of mind, Baumann noted other concerns relating to agriculture.

“But of course there are also other pressing issues that need to be resolved through science: How can we ensure the food supply for more and more people in times of climate change? How can we ensure health care for more and more elderly people?” Baumann said. “We’re working on it the way our company has always done, with an untiring focus on innovation.”

Key Areas of Focus

Over the next 12 months, Norbert Winkeljohann, chairman of Bayer’s supervisory board, says focus will be on:

  • Increasing value through the accelerated implementation of Bayer’s strategy
  • Supporting change processes
  • Strengthening growth
  • Resolving the glyphosate litigations

“Bayer holds strong positions in attractive markets with significant potential for growth and value creation. In my role as chairman of the supervisory board, I will do my part to ensure that Bayer consistently takes advantage of these opportunities,” Winkeljohann said.