FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Bayer expects the number of claims in the United States related to Roundup herbicide to have surged in the third quarter, as the German drugs and pesticides maker tries to reach a settlement after earlier court rulings against it.
"With the substantial increase in plaintiff advertising this year, we expect to see a significant surge in the number of plaintiff filings over the third quarter," the company said in a written statement.
Bayer, which acquired Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers as part of its $63 billion takeover of Monsanto last year, faces potentially heavy litigation costs as plaintiffs claim Roundup causes cancer, something Bayer disputes.
Bayer's shares have lost about 30% of their value since last August when a California jury in the first such lawsuit found Monsanto should have warned of the alleged cancer risks.
The drugmaker said in July that the number of U.S. plaintiffs in the litigation had risen to 18,400 and it is due to provide an update on Oct. 30, along with quarterly earnings.
Analysts at JP Morgan, citing an analysis of Missouri court data, said in an Oct. 9 research note that the total number of glyphosate cases could rise to more than 45,000.
However, several lawsuits have been delayed recently as mediator Ken Feinberg tries to negotiate a settlement.
The increase "may reflect a campaign by plaintiffs' lawyers and lead generators to increase the volume of plaintiffs as quickly as possible in connection with that process," Bayer said, adding that the number of plaintiffs was not an indication of the merits of these cases.
Bayer has previously said that cases where lawyers expect to win the highest damages tend to be filed first.
The head of Bayer's Crop Science unit, Liam Condon, already flagged a likely increase in the number of cases in a newspaper interview earlier this month, citing the prospect of a settlement and lawyers' efforts to recruit new plaintiffs via media campaigns.
Bayer, which says regulators and extensive research have found glyphosate to be safe, has previously said it was banking on U.S. appeals courts to reverse or tone down three initial court rulings that have so far awarded tens of millions of dollars to each plaintiff.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)