date of creation
1st August, 1863
number of employees
110,838 (as of December 2018)
Bayer is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, especially since its controversial US$66 billion takeover of Monsanto. Bayer’s areas of business include pharmaceutical products for humans and for the veterinary sector, consumer healthcare products, biotech, seeds, and agricultural chemicals.
Initially founded in 1863 as a factory producing dyestuffs, Bayer’s first major product was aspirin. They trademarked the name ‘heroin’ in 1898 for diacetylmorphine and sold it until 1910 as a cough suppressant as well as a non-addictive alternative to morphine. They were also responsible for introducing phenobarbital and prontosil, the world’s first widely used antibiotic and which won the 1939 Nobel Prize for Medicine for its discoverer, Gerhard Domagk.
In 1925, Bayer, along with five other German chemical companies, merged to form IG Farben, the world’s largest chemical company. The conglomerate was seized by the allies after the war because of its various roles in the Nazi regime. In 1951, IG Farben was split back into its six original companies then split into three: Bayer, BASF, and Hoechst.
Bayer played a major role in the “Miracle on the Rhine” (Wirtschaftswunder), the massive economic revival experienced in post-war Germany, and it soon regained its position as one of the largest global chemical and pharmaceutical companies.
Its biggest acquisition came with the 2016 controversial takeover of Monsanto for US$66 billion. Monsanto is currently facing more than 13,000 pending lawsuits and one case has seen the plaintiff awarded more than US$2 billion, though this will likely be reduced at appeal. There has also been an investigation in France that found that Monsanto had been accumulating personal information on prominent supporters and critics of pesticides across Europe, something that was against company policy and also likely illegal.
The Monsanto move has upset many of Bayer’s principal investors. At a recent AGM, more than 50% of company shareholders refused to ratify the acquisition. Though that vote was not a binding one, it does show how unhappy the shareholders are.
Though damaging, Bayer has weathered worst storms in the past, and while there may be some changes as a result of the Monsanto takeover, it is unlikely to cause significant damage in the long term.
Bayer AG is a global life sciences conglomerate, producing a range of products including veterinary drugs, plant biotech, medicines, pesticides, and seeds.