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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Troubled Bayer puts off NY listing
Bayer's headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany
Bayer is accused of delaying Baycol's withdrawal
German chemical firm Bayer, under fire in the courts and on the stock markets because of its withdrawn anti-cholesterol drug Baycol/Lipobay, has postponed plans to list its shares in New York.

Bayer had been hoping to join the New York Stock Exchange from 26 September, but said it would not now be listing until February next year.

A series of lawsuits over Baycol, coupled with the firm's disastrous recent share price performance, created too much uncertainty for the listing to go ahead, the firm said.

"We don't want to list our shares on what is for us the world's most important capital market without being able to give convincing answers to the questions that have been raised," chief executive Manfred Schneider said in a statement.

The postponement had been rumoured throughout Thursday, causing Bayer's shares to drop by almost 7%.

Lawsuits launched

Bayer's shares have lost more than one-quarter of their value over the past week, since the company was forced to withdraw Baycol, formerly one of its most lucrative drugs.

The firm admitted earlier this week that Baycol could be linked to 52 deaths from fatal muscle weakness and severe rhabdomyolysis, a condition that can lead to kidney and other organ failure.

Bayer chief executive Manfred Schneider
Bayer chief Manfred Schneider may have to sell the drugs business

Since then, lawyers - especially in the US - have queued up to launch lawsuits against the firm.

Two lawsuits, in Chicago and Oklahoma, hope to acquire class-action status, grouping together plaintiffs in the hope of achieving greater legal leverage over the firm - and hence more damages.

Some lawyers have said they hope to seize Bayer's assets in the US.

Six million people are estimated to have been prescribed Baycol.

Politicians weigh in

Now, governments are getting in on the act, too.

Bayer's communication policy is unacceptable

Theo Schroeder, German health secretary of state

The German government attacked Bayer on Thursday for failing to notify the health authorities for nearly two months about Baycol's side effects.

An inquiry completed by the Federal Institute for Pharmaceuticals & Medical Products found that Bayer had received reports of side effects on 15 June, but failed to take action until 10 August.

"Bayer's communication policy is unacceptable," said Theo Schroeder, Germany's secretary of state for health.

Bayer rejected the government's criticism, saying it had notified the authorities promptly.

In Italy, the Turin prosecutor said he would be questioning Bayer managers to ascertain whether Baycol's withdrawal had been timely.

Over the weekend, French health minister Bernard Kouchner questioned why Bayer notified the Frankfurt stock exchange of Baycol's withdrawal before informing doctors or patients.

He warned that the decision would have unspecified "consequences".

Terrible timing

The news about Baycol has battered Bayer's fortunes at a time when the firm was already suffering the effects of the global slowdown.

The Frankfurt stock exchange
Bayer's shares plunged once again

Even without the lawsuits, the firm says the Baycol withdrawal would knock up to 650m euros (408m; $581m) off its 2001 profits - over and above an earlier profit warning.

Bayer could be forced to sell its pharmaceutical business, which is thought to be too small to compete in a rapidly globalising drugs market.

Bayer's heavy share price falls contributed to a terrible day's trading on the Frankfurt stock exchange on Thursday.

The blue-chip Dax index fell to its lowest level since October 1999, bowed down also by troubles at Deutsche Telekom and automotive firms.

See also:

15 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer sued over danger drug
13 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer drug linked to more deaths
10 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer to cut more than 4,000 jobs
09 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer confirms profits slump
08 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer shares plunge
27 Jun 01 | Business
Bayer warns on 2001 profits
22 Jun 01 | Business
Drug giant warns of lower profits
21 Jun 01 | Business
BASF shuts plants
21 Nov 00 | Business
Drugs - a high-risk business
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