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WHU Speaks with the CFO of Bayer about the Company’s Today and Tomorrow

Bayer CFO Wolfgang Nickl shares insights into Monsanto, the pharma pipeline, and why he had to cut the dividend

DAX-listed company Bayer was once an icon of German industry, but today, it is struggling. Following its highly controversial acquisition of Monsanto in 2018, the company is now facing a wave of litigation in the United States and high levels of debt. Additionally, in November of last year, the most promising project in its pharmaceutical research pipeline failed in a late-stage clinical trial, crushing hopes for a new blockbuster drug. As a result, shares in Bayer, which were well above 100€ at the time of the Monsanto acquisition, now hover around the mid-20s. 

Nickl, who joined Bayer in April 2018, shortly before the closing of the merger, spoke with WHU’s Professor Martin Glaum and PwC’s Gori von Hirschhausen in the latest episode of the Leading Corporate Transformation podcast about the future of the company.  

“While our businesses are in reasonable shape, we have a few topics to deal with right now,” Nickl admits. “One of them is, obviously, the litigation in the United States.” Another, he notes, is the inherently risky pharmaceutical market that needs to be addressed as best as possible. “We have a pharma business that is doing okay, but [there is] a major loss of exclusivity to deal with.” But Nickl maintains a positive outlook. 

In the interview, Nickl explains why Bayer decided to slash its dividend, and he outlines how the company’s new CEO Bill Anderson wants to empower employees and decentralize  decision-making processes with a new management concept called “dynamic shared ownership,” or DSO for short. 

For further details, listen to the latest episode of Leading Corporation Transformation! You will hear Wolfgang Nickl’s highly positive take on pursuing an MBA and what he has learned throughout his highly successful career, in particular in his previous positions as CFO of the US-based Western Digital and of the widely discussed ASML. 

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