The rumors turned out to be true: Bayer has made a non-binding offer to acquire the shares of Monsanto. At $62 billion this would be the largest deal of the year and the largest M&A deal ever for a German company. The initial response by Bayer shareholders has been negative: the shares have plunged by more than 16% since the announcement - and no wonder:
To raise $64 billion Bayer would have to a) sell off some valuable assets in its animal health business, b) dilute existing shareholders with a massive stock offering, and c) take on $billions in additional debt. On the final point The New York Times writes:
"Because $47 billion of the total value of the deal will be funded in debt, it will leave the merged group with borrowings of four times its combined Ebitda.
But in reality, much of that debt is being loaded onto Bayer’s health care business. If the crop science unit were buying Monsanto unaided, it would end up with net borrowings that were more than seven times combined Ebitda, which looks too high for comfort. The risk is that Bayer’s options for making acquisitions in health care will be stunted. Buying Monsanto could benefit one side of the business at the expense of the other.
The biggest concern for shareholders may simply be that the deal looks like it will destroy value. Bayer expects $1.5 billion of annual synergies. According to a Breakingviews estimate, this represents a net present value of around $11 billion compared with that $15 billion premium. And Bayer has not said how much is supposed to come from enhanced revenue, which is typically hard to achieve in real life."
Some other issues to consider:
Bayer is primarily a (well-run) pharmaceutical company. Integrating a major non-German agriculture company would be a major challenge and lead to much internal management strife.
The is a strong likelihood that the deal will be blocked by regulatory authorities due to anti-trust concerns.
Monsanto - rightly or not - is one of the most hated corporations, especially in Europe. Many of its products - such as the genetically modified corn MON 810 - are banned in Europe, which would create a major headache for Bayer.
Monsanto's flagship herbicide product RoundUp could be banned from Europe if an EU regulatory commission decides not to renew the license for glyphosate later next month.
Farmers will lose out due to further consolidation in big agriculture following the DuPont-Dow merger.
Monsanto wants to remain independent, so Bayer may have to considerably sweeten the deal beyond $62 billion to gain board approval.
I don't have a position in either stock, but at this point my recommendation is short BAYRY.
What could possibly unite the real estate magnate Donald Trumg with the left-wing firebrand Oskar Lafontaine? Spiegel columnist Jan Ffeischhauer explains:
In den Zeitungen steht, was für eine Gefahr für den Weltfrieden ein Wahlsieg des amerikanischen Milliardärs bedeuten würde. Man kann dort jeden Tag lesen, wie engstirnig, rückschrittlich und bigott seine Vorstellungen seien. Ich verstehe die Kritik nicht ganz. Ich habe beim Lesen nämlich eine Entdeckung gemacht: Vieles, was Trump fordert, findet sich so oder so ähnlich auch bei der Linkspartei und ihren publizistischen Bannerträgern.
("I'm constantly reading in the newspapers how the American billionaire would be a major threat to world peace if he wins the election. You can read everyday how short-sighted, backwards and bigoted his ideas are. I don't entirely agree with this criticism. In reading about his programs I've actually made the following discovery: much of want Trump wants can also be found with Left Party in Germany and with their journalist supporters.")
Interesting conclusion. Let's look at some specific issues:
NATO: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine would like to consign the alliance to the scrap heap.
PUTIN: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine admire the autocratic kleptocrat Vladimir Putin - Trump because Putin reminds him of Mussolini; Lafontaine since Putin reminds him of his hero Joseph Stalin.
FREE TRADE: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine want to abolish all trade treaties - especially TIPP - and impose tariffs on imports.
IMMIGRANTS: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine want to stop immigration - Trump sees immigrants as terrorists and criminals, Lafontaine hates Fremdarbeiter.
WALLS: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine want to build walls - Trump would wall off the border with Mexico; Lafontaine dreams of a new Schutzmauer.
FREE PRESS: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine hate the press - Trump has promised to punish those newspapers that published negative articles about him once he becomes president; Lafontaine would abolish the Lügenpresse and replace it with RT Deutsch and Sputnik.
ANGELA MERKEL: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine have only contempt for the chancellor, primarily because of her stance on refugees.
DEMOCRACY: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine hate liberal democracy and would replace it with a benevolent dictatorship.
There is much that unites these two. Maybe Donald will invite Oskar and Sahra to the Inaugural Ball?
In 1945, Americans began sending CARE (Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe) to a Europe devastated by war. In some cases, the CARE package was all that stood between starvation and survival. The CARE packages contained everything from rice and corned beef, to blankets and coffee. In June 1946 Americans were finally allowed to send CARE packages to Germany. Eventually, more than 82,000 tons of food were distributed to people in West Germany via CARE packages until the program was discontinued in 1962. During the Berlin Airlift, CARE packages represented more than 60% of all private aid to the city.
My friend Gunter Nitsch, a writer in Chicago, received CARE packages from an American family during a time of great need. He was interviewed about his childhood experience by National Public Radio:
Die Anhänger dieser Ideologie sind stattdessen überzeugt, dass das Deutsche Reich noch immer existiere, denn die Bundesrepublik sei kein legitimer Rechtsnachfolger; Deutschland habe auch nie vor den Alliierten kapituliert, sondern nur einen Waffenstillstand geschlossen und sei bis heute von den Siegermächten des Zweiten Weltkrieges besetzt; die Bundesrepublik sei daher lediglich eine GmbH, um das Land zu verwalten und seine Bürger auszubeuten. Schlussfolgerung der Anhänger: Sie seien noch immer Bürger des Deutschen Reiches, wahlweise in den Grenzen von 1871 oder 1937.
Needless to say, hatred of the remaining Besatzungsmacht - Occupying Force - namely, the United States - is a core feature of the Reichsbürger. But also a hatred of the EU, of the Chancellor, of the court system and law enforcement agencies of the Federal Republic. There is a great deal of overlap with the Pegida movement, the neo-Nazis in eastern Germany, and the rise of the AfD (Alternative for Germany Party). Peter Staudenmaier, a professor of German in the US, has looked into the Reich Citizens Movement:
"Purveyors of Reich ideology mix these elements with Nordic mythology and invocations of Atlantis, with enthusiasm for alternative currencies, skepticism toward globalization, and a longing for peace and harmony in a world marked by violence and upheaval. It is an unsurprisingly inconsistent worldview. While much of the Reich citizens’ literature is obsessed with the Allies (above all the US) as supposed occupying powers in Germany, their ire is largely reserved for the European Union. Nebulous denunciations of the evils of global capitalism rub elbows with hymns to the inviolability of private property.
Like its counterparts elsewhere, the Reich citizens movement is a classic instance of left-right crossover and a symptom of profound political confusion. Its adherents recycle hoary antisemitic legends and even anti-Masonic conspiracy myths from the era after the First World War. There are numerous esoteric connections. Waldorf schooling as well as biodynamic farming remain especially attractive within this segment of the far-right milieu."
For the time being, there is no unified Reich Citizens Movement. Rather there are fragmented groups of varying sizes and no real agreement on where the Reich is based or who the true successor to the Kaiser is.
It would be easy to dismiss the movement as a bunch of crackpots with too much time on their hands, but they are beginning to represent a real threat in different parts of Germany. The leaders of the various factions spend their days harassing tax authorities, judges and other court officials, and politicians with their crazy demands. At the same time, they refuse to pay taxes or comply with any local ordinances, which they view as de facto illegitimate. The situation in Wittenberg, as just one example, has become intolerable.
Die Stadtverwaltung Wittenburg hat neue Sicherheitsrichtlinien erlassen und die Mitarbeiter zum Thema Sicherheit geschult. Der Grund sind wiederholte Übergriffe aus dem Umfeld der so genannten Reichsbürger-Bewegung. Immer wieder seien Mitarbeiter der Stadtverwaltung massiv verbal angegriffen und beleidigt worden
And the problem isn't limited to verbal assaults or constant phone calls or mountains of faxes. Many of these Reichsbürger are stockpiling weapons, and there is real fear of acts of terrorism:
Natürlich ist längst nicht jeder Reichsbürger ein potenzieller Terrorist. Aber die Gefahr wächst, dass aus der Szene radikale Einzeltäter hervorgehen wie jene des Nationalsozialistischen Untergrundes. Denn die Zahl der Reichsbürger steigt.
On every trip to Frankfurt I've always marveled at the giant -somewhat eerie - Hammering Man figure, always in motion, silently at work building - what? Castles in the air?
Neben dem Messeturm in der Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage steht seit 1991die 21 m hohe Silhouette des "Hammering Man". Von 1971 an arbeitete Borofsky wieder figürlich, 1980 entwickelte er seinen Entwurf des "Hammering Man". Dessen Maße hat Borofsky immer wieder variiert. In der Baseler Kunsthalle präsentierte er 1981 die Figur zum erstenmal mit einer Höhe von sieben Metern. 1982 gab es bei der Documenta 7 in Kassel ein Quartett zu sehen. In seiner archetypischen Bildhaftigkeit erinnert der "Hammering Man" an einen überdimensionierten Scherenschnitt. Mit seiner monotonen Armbewegung, mit der er einen Hammer schwingt, ist er ein Sinnbild des arbeitenden Menschen. Als Symbol steht er für das unaufhaltsame Fortschreiten der Zeit. Durch seine beachtliche Größe ist der "Hammering Man" zu einer Landmark von Frankfurt geworden. Am Fuß der Skulptur befindet sich eine Zahlenreihe, denn Borofsky nummeriert seine Kunstwerke.
The sculptor, Jonathan Borofsky, has replicas of the Hammering Man and equally monumental "Walking Man" monuments in major cities around the world. I always assumed that an artist of this stature would have his studio in New York, London, or Berlin. So I was surprised to learn from my local newspaper that Borofsky lives and works just a few miles me on the coast of Maine. Here he keeps a very low profile:
"Jonathan Borofsky isn’t seeking your attention. He doesn’t care if you recognize his name. And he’s not particularly interested in having his photo taken for this newspaper – or any other. Borofsky, a sculptor from Ogunquit, may be the most famous artist from Maine you’ve never heard of, which is as he likes it. “Maine is my protective zone,” he says. “It’s my safety zone.”
In Frankfurt, 20,000 cars a day whiz by his “Hammering Man.” The drivers and passengers in those cars do not know his name and probably don’t care.
The sad news was reported by the government of Chile: the first lady of "real-existing socialism" on German soil - Margot Honecker - has died. From the New York Times obituary:
Margot Honecker, the widow of Erich Honecker, the longtime ruler of Communist East Germany, and a powerful hard-liner in her own right as the minister of education for 26 years until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, died on Friday in exile in Chile. She was 89.[...]Known as the “purple witch” for her violet hair dye and her fervor for repressive policies, Mrs. Honecker was 26 and the youngest member of the national legislature in 1953 when Mr. Honecker, 15 years older and a rising star of the East German Communist Party, obtained party permission to divorce his first wife and marry her....She acknowledged that “mistakes were made in history, which one has to regret,” and that “the G.D.R. also had its foes — that’s why we had the Stasi,” the country’s secret police agency. But she called the regime’s opponents “criminals who today make out that they were political victims,” and said that she had never understood why people fled to the West. “There was no need for them to climb over the wall, to pay for this stupidity with their lives,” she said.[...]Klaus Korn, an author of studies on East German education and development, who was also an aide to Mrs. Honecker, said in an interview that her ideologies were based on “unconditional love for the Soviet Union.” Joseph Stalin had been dead since 1953, but, Mr. Korn said: “She still saw Stalin as her magnetic pole. For her, his mistakes could hardly have been avoided and were of less significance than his merits.”
In 2001, to mark the 40th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, the PDS Party - precursor to DIE LINKE (The Left Party) - issued a statement condemning the Wall and everything it stood for: Es gibt keine Rechtfertigung für die Toten an der Mauer ("There can be no justification for the deaths at the Wall")
Am 40. Jahrestag des 13. August 1961 gilt deshalb unser Gedenken den an der deutsch-deutschen Grenze zu Tode Gekommenen, den Verletzten, den Inhaftierten und von Repressalien Betroffenen sowie ihren Angehörigen. Wir bedauern das von der SED als der dafür verantwortlichen politischen Kraft ausgegangene Unrecht. Das Schicksal der Opfer und die Einschränkungen der Würde und der Lebenswege vieler Menschen berühren uns tief. (...)
The PDS Party leadership gave approval to this statement, which represented a final departure from the Stalinist roots of the former East German party. There was only one dissenting vote: Sahra Wagenknecht opposed the statement.
Now the icon of Sahra's socialist youth - "the purple witch" - has died. But Sahra Wagenknecht and her husband Oskar can rejoice at the words Frau Honecker spoke during her last interview, when she was ambushed on the street in Santiago by a German reporter.
"Der Sozialismus kommt wieder in Deutschland." Socialism shall one day rise again on German soil. The dream shall never die.
Imagine having to walk to work or to school each day and being spit at, subjected to harassment and insults, or just getting hostile looks from every passerby. That is the reality for foreigners in Dresden. Take, for example, the case of Ana, a young university student from Indonesia:
Als Muslima ist sie für Ausländerfeinde gut erkennbar. „Muslim-Schwein“ oder „Scheiß-Muslim“ sind Ausdrücke, die sie immer wieder zu hören bekommt. Einmal habe ein etwa elfjähriger Junge sie gefragt, ob sie Auschwitz kenne. „Als ich das bejahte, sagte er nur: „Du wirst dort enden.““ Vor allem wenn IS-Terroristen wieder für Schlagzeilen sorgten, werde auf die geachtet. Ana hat dann das Gefühl, wie eine Täterin behandelt zu werden. In einer Straßenbahn habe ihr ein Junge seinen Finger wie eine Pistole an den Kopf gehalten. „Ein Mann hat das gesehen, gesagt hat er nichts“, erzählt sie.
(As a Muslim woman she is easily spotted by those who hate foreigners. "Muslim pig" or "Shit Mulsim" are expressions that she keeps hearing. Once an eleven-year old boy asked her if she had heard of Auschwitz. "When I said yes, he said "That's where you'll end up." Especially when ISIS terrorists are in the headlines things are hard for her. Ana feels like she's being treated as a criminal. On the streetcar once a boy pointed at her head with his fingers as with a pistol. "An adult man saw that, but said nothing.")
Another university student - Natalie from Africa - talks about how she was sitting in a packed streetcar and a man spat in her face; nobody came to her assistance.
„Ich reise viel und bin auch schon in Asien in Dörfern gewesen, wo man bis dahin noch nie einen schwarze Frau gesehen hatte. Aber die Leute waren neugierig, wollten meine Haut anfassen. In Dresden dagegen wird man beschimpft, selbst von Kindern. Die Mütter stehen daneben. Ich möchte wissen, was aus denen wird, wenn sie mal 18 Jahre alt sind.“
("I travel quite a bit and have been in villages in Asia where up to that point they had never seen a black woman. But the people were curious and wanted to touch my skin. But in Dresden all I get is insults - even from children. The mothers just stand there and do nothing. I'd like to know what happens to them when they turn 18.")'
Fortunately, most places are not like Dresden - the cradle of the Pegida movement.
Ana ist kürzlich zu Besuch in Frankfurt gewesen. Dort hat sie in einem Supermarkt eine Muslima an der Kasse sitzen sehen - in Dresden wohl eine undenkbare Vorstellung. Seither schwärmt die 32-Jährige für die Stadt am Main. Wie ihre Zukunft aussieht, weiß sie noch nicht genau. Zunächst will sie in Dresden einen Job suchen. „Meine Erwartungen wurden nicht erfüllt“, blickt sie zurück. Dass Menschen sich gerade in einem solch entwickelten Land wie Deutschland so verhalten, findet sie merkwürdig. In Indonesien seien zwar viele Menschen sehr arm und nicht so gut gebildet: „Respekt und Hilfsbereitschaft haben sie aber.“
Sahra Wagenknecht is a guiding light for Die LINKE (Left Party) in Germany while Frauke Petry currently leads the far-right AfD ("Alternative for Germany"). One wouldn't think the two had much in common - they are at the extreme opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both women want Germany to dissolve the trans-Atlantic partnership; both want Germany to leave the NATO alliance that has brought peace and prosperity to the nation for 70 year; both are sworn opponents of the American influence which they see as undermining Germany's "sovereignty". And both are strong advocates for appeasing Russia.
AfD und Linkspartei werden vom gemeinsamen Hass gegen westlichen Liberalismus und "Amerikanismus" getrieben. Die größte Herausforderung für die Bundesrepublik besteht somit in zwei Pro-Putin-Parteien.
("AfD and the Left Party are both driven by a common hatred of western liberalism and "Americanism". These two pro-Putin parties represent the greatest challenge to the the Federal Republic.")
Both Sahra Wagenknecht and Frauke Petry would throw Estonia and Latvia under the bus - as well as Poland - by having Germany exit NATO and forging a separate "peace alliance with Russia:
Spätestens hier fällt die frappierende Deckungsgleichheit zwischen den außenpolitischen Vorstellungen der Gauland-AfD und der SED-Nachfolgepartei Die Linke auf, die schon lange mit der Formel einer Ersetzung der Nato durch eine gemeinsame Sicherheitsstruktur mit Russland operiert.
("Here we can finally see the surprising congruence between the foreign policy ideas of the Gauland-AfD and the successor party to the (East German) SED - the Left Party; both have long advocated for replacing NATO with a common security arrangement with Russia.")
The AfD - Alternative for Germany - has now surpassed the Left Party as the third largest political party in Germany; many of its new supporters are former Left Party members who are attracted to the more radical populist rhetoric of the AfD. Sahra Wagenknecht will have to follow Frauke Petry's lead in attacking liberal democracy, the NATO alliance, the media ("Lügenpresse"), and the refugees seeking to stay in Germany if she wants to stay relevant. Aligning with Moscow has always been part of the DNA of the Left Party.
Nirgendwo sonst als in ihrer gemeinsamen Bereitschaft, sich für Putins neoimperiale Ansprüche ins Zeug zu legen, wird deutlicher, dass die vermeintlichen weltanschaulichen Antipoden AfD und Linkspartei in Wahrheit aus demselben Holz geschnitzt sind.Beide werden in ihrem Innersten vom gemeinsamen Hass gegen westlichen Liberalismus und "Amerikanismus" getrieben – alles andere ist dagegen nur ideologisches Ornament. In der konzertierten Aktion zweier deutscher Pro-Putin-Parteien besteht heute die größte Herausforderung für die Verfassungsordnung der Bundesrepublik.
("In their common willingness to support Putin's neo-imperial course it is clear that despite their supposed ideological differences the Afd and the Left Party are cut from the same cloth. Both are driven in their hearts by a common hatred of Western liberalism and "Americanism" - everything else is just an ideological ornament. The concerted actionof two German pro-Putin parties today is the biggest challenge for the constitutional orderof the Federal Republic.")