German industry is suffering an unaccustomed feeling of discomfort - some have called it a crisis.
In March, Manfred Schneider, at the end of his first full year as chairman of the board of management, announced Bayer's annual results to the world's press. It was an inauspicious debut. Pre-tax profits had fallen for the third consecutive year - down by almost 16% at DM2.7 billion - the workforce had been reduced by 7,800 and the dividend cut. The current year, he noted, had started no better; the forecast for group sales had been revised downward from a modest growth to a slight fall, chemical plant operating rates had fallen below 70% for the first time since the early '80s and, following a collapse in demand in certain product areas, 3,000 employees in Germany were to be put on short-time working.