Berlin/Frankfurt/London: With Bayer AG’s proposed $66 billion purchase of Monsanto Co., the company that invented Aspirin is poised to take on one of the world’s biggest corporate headaches. One potential cure: dropping the Monsanto name.
The German drug and chemical conglomerate is considering that move to avoid sullying its reputation, according to people familiar with internal discussions at Bayer who asked not to be named because the talks are private. No decision has been made, and Bayer’s managers will have some time to think: thanks to antitrust reviews in some 30 jurisdictions worldwide, the purchase isn’t likely to be completed before late 2017.
Even if the deal goes through as proposed, merging the two companies into the world’s top maker of seeds and crop chemicals will be a challenge. Bayer will need to integrate a company known for making the herbicide Agent Orange for use in the Vietnam War and tangling with environmental groups over genetically-modified crops.
One possibility would be to market Monsanto products such as seed corn and Roundup herbicide under the Bayer CropScience name, said Joachim Kregel, who represents independent investors at the German shareholder association SdK. Bayer, after all, brought Aspirin to market in 1899, and in May it topped a ranking of the world’s most reputable pharmaceutical brands from the Reputation Institute, a marketing consultancy.