COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) - Bayer (BAYGn.DE) could spend around 17 billion euros ($23 billion) of its warchest for acquisitions to boost its healthcare and seeds businesses, its incoming chief executive said just days before taking the helm.
Deals on the scale of the 17 billion euro takeover of rival Schering AG in 2006 could be financed, said Marijn Dekkers, who replaces Werner Wenning on Friday.
Dutch-born Dekkers reaffirmed his aim to pursue acquisitions to strengthen Bayer's healthcare division as well as its fledgling business that supplies genetically modified seeds to farmers.
But he ruled out making forays into new areas of medicine where Germany's largest drugmaker is not already expert.
"We should not position ourselves too broadly. You don't have to be the largest player, as long as your are not too broadly positioned. When we buy something, it will likely be related to what we are already doing," Dekkers told journalists late on Monday.
Bayer ranks 12th among world drugmakers by 2009 sales, according to data collected by market researcher IMS Health.
Wenning cut down Bayer's focus on pharmaceuticals research to four medical areas: women's healthcare, oncology, cardiology and diagnostic imaging.
NO SWEEPING CHANGES
The group's healthcare division also makes non-prescription drugs, veterinary medicines and devices for diabetics.
One of the criteria for takeovers would be whether they help Bayer to capitalize on growth in emerging economies, particularly in Asia, said Dekkers, who learnt German as a student while working as a coach for a German tennis club.
"I want to considerably increase the proportion of business we make in emerging markets," Dekkers said.
Last year's appointment of Dekkers, who oversaw Thermo Electron's purchase of twice-as-large Fisher Scientific in 2006, marked the first time in Bayer's 147-year history that the company tapped an outsider to take the helm.
Dekkers has made a point of quelling speculation he would press for sweeping changes at Bayer.
On Monday, he indicated again that a divestment of the group's MaterialScience unit, the world's largest maker of chemicals for insulation foam and plastics used for data disks and car lights, was not imminent.
"All three main divisions are of strategic importance to me. I don't see the need at the moment to change this portfolio," he said, referring to Bayer's main divisions of healthcare, pesticides and plastics.
"A fundamental change is currently not on my agenda," he said.
(Editing by David Cowell)