Bayer reshapes with plan to list plastics unit

September 18, 2014
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By Georgina Prodhan

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany’s Bayer, plans to list its less profitable plastics business on the stock market in a deal that could value the division at around 10 billion euros (8 billion pounds) as it seeks to focus entirely on healthcare and crop science.

News of the planned spin-off of the MaterialScience unit, which has a core profit margin of 9.5 percent compared with the group’s 20.9 percent, lifted Bayer shares to a record high. It follows a wider healthcare industry trend to streamline operations.

“In this way Bayer would position itself as a world-leading company in the field of human, animal and plant health,” the company said in a statement, adding that its supervisory board would discuss the plans at a board meeting on Thursday.

Investors have long speculated that Bayer could split its operations, and Jefferies said in a note this week that spinning off MaterialScience would allow the company to focus on building critical mass in animal health, potentially via acquisitions.

They pointed to Zoetis, the previous veterinary division of Pfizer that is now a standalone business, as one possible target.

Shares in Bayer were up 4 percent at 110.50 euros by 0825 BST, lifting the European chemicals index 1.1 percent.

Equinet analysts value the MaterialScience unit, which makes polycarbonate plastics used in products from panoramic luxury-car roofs to blu-ray disks, at almost 10 billion euros while brokerage DZ Bank said it was worth about 11 billion euros.

The unit’s adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) tumbled 15 percent in 2013, on sales of 11.2 billion euros, giving it the margin of 9.5 percent.

Healthcare, the company’s largest unit, had an adjusted EBITDA margin of 28.2 percent, and smallest unit CropScience had 25.5 percent.

Despite stable volumes and prices, Bayer said it had been unable to pass on MaterialScience’s large increases in raw materials costs to its customers.

“The (plastic) business has underperformed the company’s life-sciences operations,” brokerage Close Brothers Seydler said in a note.

(Additional reporting by Ben Hirschler in London; editing by Thomas Atkins and Pravin Char)

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