Press review

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Bayer's Monsanto found liable for French farmer's health problems

BERLIN, 12 Apr (APM) - The French court of appeal in Lyon has ruled that Bayer's Monsanto was responsible for Paul François' neurological health problems, after the French farmer inhaled weed killer Lasso, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on Friday (p18).
The court did not rule on compensation for him, which will be decided in a separate ruling. However, Monsanto should pay €50,000 to cover the plaintiff's legal expenses.

Bayer to shed 4,500 jobs in Germany

Bayer on Tuesday told staff that about 4,500 jobs in Germany are to go by the end of 2021, reported on Tuesday FAZ (p19) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p17) and on Wednesday FAZ (p21, 37), SZ (p19), Handelsblatt (p21) and Die Welt (p9) (APMHE 62593).
Germany is being hit harder by the restructuring than other countries, as Bayer is shedding 14% of its 32,1000 workforce in the country, compared to 10% of its 12,000 workforce in other countries.
In November 2018, Bayer's management and German employee representatives agreed that job losses for operational reasons in Germany would be generally excluded until the end of 2025 (APMHE 60835), although there will be an early retirement plan for German employees (APMHE 60919).
Bayer's headquarters in Leverkusen will be most concerned as its business services unit BBS, with 6,400 employees, is closing. BBS's tasks such as billing, accounting or event management for the various divisions are being redistributed elsewhere, Handelsblatt reported.

Merck KGaA raises offer for Versum to $6.5 billion

Merck KGaA on Monday raised its offer for U.S. electronic materials Versum Materials to $53-a- share from $48 and won the support of the company's board, reported FAZ (p21, 22) and Handelsblatt (p19) on Tuesday (APMHE 62586).
With this sweetened $6.5 billion takeover proposal, Merck has a good chance of prevailing against the competitive offer of the U.S. speciality chemicals group Entegris, both newspapers said.

Fresenius planning acquisitions in 2019

German health group Fresenius is planning medium-sized acquisitions in 2019 and bigger deals in 2020 or later, chief finance officer Rachel Empey told FAZ and reported on Tuesday (pp21) (APMHE 62599).
"We have quite a bit of financial clout," Empey said.
Empey did not specify in which of Fresenius's four divisions investments are planned.

Immunic debuts on Nasdaq after reverse merger with U.S. Vital

German biotech Immunic Therapeutics, developing drugs to treat chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, is making its debut on the U.S. Nasdaq stock market after a reverse merger with U.S. Vital Therapies, which is already listed, reported Handelsblatt (p16-17) on Tuesday and FAZ on Thursday (p31).
Key shareholders have agreed to the tie-up as its main product, cell-based therapy ELAD system, failed Phase III in severe alcoholic hepatitis last year (APMHE 61320).
"We would have liked to stay in our home market," Immunic's chief executive Daniel Vitt told FAZ.
"But our capital requirements are so high that I do not see any chance of financing them in Europe in the medium term."
A "real IPO" in the U.S. would probably have cost $6 to 7 million. However, Immunic now starts a U.S. roadshow in order to make itself better known to investors.

German biotech growing but on 'shaky basis'

The German biotechnology industry is making progress, with turnover up 9% and the number of employees growing by 5% in 2018, but its financing remains on a "shaky basis", according to consultancy firm EY Germany, reported FAZ (p21) and Handelsblatt (p16-17) on Tuesday (p21) (APMHE 62584).
The 98% growth in investments to €1.24 billion was only driven by a few deals only - BioNTech, MorphoSys and Qiagen and there were no stock market flotations in 2018.
German biotech companies are looking for financial backing in the U.S. because Germany lacks financial resources and political support, Handelsblatt said.

Successful stock market float for Alcon

Novartis' spin-out Alcon got off to a positive start on the Swiss stock market, Handelsblatt (p33), SZ (p17), Die Welt (p13) and FAZ (p25) reported on Wednesday (APMHE 62597).
Alcon's shares climbed to 58 Swiss francs on Tuesday after opening at 55 Swiss francs, reaching a market cap of some 28 billion Swiss francs and thus becoming a new heavyweight on the Swiss stock market.
Most analysts had expected prices between 40 and 45 Swiss francs at the start, FAZ said.

New ideas needed in Alzheimer's research

New ideas in Alzheimer's research are needed after Biogen and Eisai's flop with aducanumab, reported Handelsblatt on Monday (p16-17).
The Biogen/Eisai failure is one of numerous unsuccessful attempts. About 150 product candidates in Alzheimer's have failed in clinical trials since the end of the 1990s.
The 'beta amyloid' research path, involving many of the failed attempts, is still being explored. However, the focus is now increasingly on alternative approaches using the Tau-protein, targeting early stage of brain degeneration or immune malfunctions.

Draft law to support local pharmacies

The German Health Ministry has drawn up a draft law on "local pharmacies reinforcement", aimed at putting an end to a conflict with the European Commission on German price regulation applied to foreign-based mail order pharmacies (APMHE 62627), SZ (p5) and FAZ (p17) reported on Tuesday (p5).
The draft law also includes several provisions on pharmacists' remuneration, providing additional €205 million.

Ban confirmed on drug vending machine

German administrative court of Karlsruhe confirmed a ban on a drug vending machine set up by the Dutch mail order pharmacy DocMorris in the village of Hüffenhardt, FAZ said on Saturday (p22).
The court said that this practice was contrary to the law on medicinal products according to which prescription drugs must be sold only in "authorised enterprises" and only by pharmaceutical personnel.
DocMorris is waiting to see the written ruling to decide if it will appeal the verdict.

Three manufacturers licensed to grow medical cannabis in Germany

Three companies have been licensed by German regulator BfArM's Cannabis Agency to grow medical cannabis in Germany: Demecan, joint venture of Canadian Wayland group and a Berlin start-up, and the German subsidiaries of Canadian groups Aphria and Aurora, SZ (p20) reported on Monday and Die Welt (p24) on Friday.
According to analysts, the German market for medical cannabis is worth €2.7 billion, with 800,000 potential patients. However, the uptake is developing slowly; 40,000 patients received 185,000 cannabis prescriptions, creating gross sales of €74 million in 2018, Die Welt writes.
Before BfArM's decision was announced, one of the bidders filed a lawsuit with Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court questioning the tendering procedure. However, people familiar with the matter said that Aphria would be the plaintiff and would likely drop its claims, SZ said.
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