Bayer CEO Wenning blasts Germany's ‘short-sighted politicians'

30 September 2010 15:58  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Outgoing Bayer CEO Werner Wenning criticised German politicians on Thursday, accusing them of being too focused on risks while neglecting long-term opportunities, especially in key areas such as biotechnology.

Wenning spoke out on the last day in his job - he is due to be succeeded by Marijn Dekkers, who will take over on Friday (1 October).

Germany needs to be open to innovation and change. We must ask more often where the opportunities are, and not just confine the discussion to risks,” Wenning told Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger, a German daily, in an interview. The paper provided a transcript.

Wenning urged Germany’s politicians to be far-sighted in their decisions about areas such as biotechnology, rather than allowing the discussion to be driven by “loudly voiced concerns.”

He said Germany had been reluctant to accept medical biotechnology in the 1990s, thus prompting firms to invest abroad. Today, many had regrets and would put out “a red carpet” to welcome such investments in Germany.

Also, many of the products and solutions invented in Germany had been successful commercialised outside the country, a trend that should make Germans stop to think, he said.

“Our research and development has to have a long-term view,” he added.

Wenning also defended his successor, rejecting suggestions that the appointment of Dekkers – who is Dutch and holds a US passport – was a “cultural break” for Bayer.

Decisions on such executive appointments were solely a matter of qualifications, and not nationality or tradition, Wenning said.

The point for Bayer was to have a CEO who would continue to develop the company, especially in international growth markets.

“[Bayer] needs more variety in its management,” he said, adding that Dekkers' appointment underlined the company’s international profile. He went on to note that Bayer’s language of business has been English since 2004.

Wenning said he had no firm plans for his retirement. He planned to travel to Israel, but would certainly continue to work as well, he said.

Wenning is a member of the supervisory boards of Deutsche Bank, energy firm E.ON, and two other firms, according to information on Bayer’s website.

However, unlike his predecessors, Wenning will not be able to immediately join Bayer’s supervisory board. A new German rule imposes a two-year waiting period before former CEOs can join their firms' supervisory boards.

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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