Bayer stays visible in Germany, on Mount Washington
The plant of German pharmaceuticals and chemicals giant Bayer in Leverkusen, Germany. Bayer said Feb. 28 that it was confident about the outlook for the current year after nearly doubling profits in 2011.
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For anyone who regularly motors through Downtown Pittsburgh, the iconic Bayer cross logo sign is a familiar sight atop Mount Washington.
The same is true for residents of Leverkusen, Germany, where Bayer has its global headquarters and the company's circled cross shines above the city -- more than half a football field in diameter and illuminated by 1,710 bulbs.
In a very real sense, the light from that sign now shines around the world.
Bayer's global reach stretches from new production facilities in Germany to expanded production and packaging operations in Indonesia.
In recent years, it has extended research facilities in The Netherlands, constructed a greenhouse in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and built a production complex in Shanghai, China. The company expanded a research laboratory in Belgium and expanded vegetable seed production in Idaho. It also built a polyurethane systems house in Moscow.
Domestically, announced investments and key activities last year included a $120 million process technology and energy efficiency improvement project at Bayer MaterialScience's Baytown, Texas, facility -- the company's largest production site in the U.S.; a $17 million "green" renovation at Bayer's U.S. headquarters in Pittsburgh; a planned $10 million investment by Bayer CropScience to create a plant biotechnology research center in Morrisville, N.C.; and the opening of Bayer HealthCare's U.S. Innovation Center in Mission Bay, Calif., home to the company's U.S. biopharmaceutical research and collaboration activities.
Closer to home, company officials expanded vitamin tablet production and packaging in Myerstown, east of Harrisburg in Lebanon County. Even closer, the Marshall-based Bayer subsidiary Medrad recently purchased Pathway Medical Technologies, Inc., of Kirkland, Wash., which specializes in products that clear arterial blockages in the leg.
In all, Bayer is parent to 283 subsidiaries, with a presence in nearly every country on the map. And the company's plans call for nearly $4 billion globally in research and development.
Officials believe their biggest opportunities are in the Far East.
Bayer MaterialScience, one of Bayer AG's three divisions, (the other two are HealthCare, makers of such brand names as Aleve, Alka-Seltzer and One A Day vitamins, and MaterialScience, a leading producer of polymers and high-tech plastics) plans to expand its presence in China.
Less than 50 miles from the headquarters in Shanghai is a production plant that employs more than 1,000 workers. Bayer hopes to double that plant's capacity, part of a broader plan to increase sales in Asia, more than 60 percent by 2015.
Closer to headquarters, the near-term is less certain.
Economic woes in the Eurozone -- including a 30 percent drop in the German stock index last fall -- raised worries before some stability returned by year end. The stock index finished below its 2010 level, but Bayer made $532 million in net income that final quarter, following a $195 million loss for the same period in 2010.
For all of 2011, Bayer hit its targets for sales and earnings per share while reducing debt by nearly $1 billion.
Part of that reduced debt came at the expense of jobs. The company eliminated 600 jobs in the U.S. alone last year, with plans to reduce 4,500 staff positions companywide.
But officials also expect to hire 2,500, according to the company's annual report, "in growth and innovation, particularly in emerging markets."
As Bayer moves forward, it will do so without the talents of Greg Babe, president and CEO of Bayer Corp. USA in Robinson since 2008. He recently announced that he will retire in June. The West Virginia native started at Bayer in 1976 as an intern at its New Martinsville, W.Va., production facility.
First Published March 20, 2012 12:00 am