GERMANY — Bayer investor Deka has called for CEO Werner Baumann to be replaced ahead of his scheduled departure, adding to mounting pressure on the German drugmaker.

Bayer needs a new strategic positioning, which cannot be credibly accomplished under Werner Baumann,” Ingo Speich, head of sustainability and corporate governance at Deka, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) newspaper in remarks published on Saturday.

The mutual funds firm is among Bayer’s 20 largest shareholders.

There is a window of opportunity for Chairman Norbert Winkeljohann to act before the annual general meeting at the end of April. He has to seize that opportunity, otherwise the pressure on him will increase as well,” Speich added.

He said a successor would have to come from outside the company.

Generally speaking we are always open to a constructive dialogue with our stakeholders,” a Bayer spokesperson said, declining to comment specifically on the interview.

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann has faced shareholder pressure since the company’s 2018 acquisition of crop science giant Monsanto.

Bayer’s record German takeover became a legal headache, with the company setting aside an estimated US$16 billion to cover lawsuits alleging that the controversial weedkiller Roundup causes cancer.

During the Monsanto litigation, Bayer’s share price has dropped by roughly half from its pre-deal level. Some investors have suggested that the company, which has three major divisions devoted to pharmaceuticals, crop science, and consumer health, be divided into separate entities.

Fourteen months ago, Baumann reiterated Bayer’s current configuration is correct and intends to remain intact even as other pharma giants, such as Johnson & Johnson, were breaking up.

Baumann was given a new contract in 2020 that runs until 2024, and he stated at the time that he would leave the company when that term expired.

Union Investment, a mutual funds group, criticized Bayer’s chair a week ago for a lack of engagement, such as exploring a spin-off of the company’s consumer health division.

Bluebell Capital Partners, an activist investor, has also demanded that Bayer be broken up, including the sale of its consumer health unit and, later, the separation of its pharmaceuticals and agricultural businesses.

According to Reuters, Bluebell Capital Partners has purchased an undisclosed stake in the company and is pushing for its dissolution.

Bluebell’s move follows a similar push to effect change at GSK in 2021. At the time, the British pharmaceutical behemoth was separating from its consumer health unit.

Bluebell, on the other hand, demanded that CEO Emma Walmsley and Chairman Jonathan Symonds be replaced.

Another activist investment fund, Inclusive Capital Partners, led by hedge fund veteran Jeffrey Ubben, announced this month that it had acquired a stake in Bayer.

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