Bayer has been giving more details about plans to float its material science division on the stock market and “focus entirely “on life sciences.

The flotation will take place within the next 12 to 18 months, and the German conglomerate said a major reason for the move is to give material science “direct access to capital [which] can no longer be adequately ensured within the Bayer group”. That is due to “the substantial investment needs of the life science businesses for both organic and external growth”.

Chief executive Marijn Dekkers (pictured) said a strategy and corporate culture “aligned to technological and cost leadership, coupled with the ability to make its own investment and portfolio decisions, would give the material science division the best development prospects in a highly competitive market”. He added that the unit “is a very well positioned business that today operates very modern, competitive, large-scale facilities [and] we have steadily invested in these facilities, even in difficult economic times”.

The Leverkusen-headquartered major, founded just over 150 years ago, said that in recent years, its “centre of gravity has greatly shifted toward its life science activities” with a number of successful drug launches and the pending acquisition of Merck & Co’s over-the-counter business. The life sciences currently already account for about 70% of Bayer's sales and 88% of earnings before tax and special items.

Dr Dekkers said Bayer will continue “as an enterprise with an attractive and balanced portfolio and a primary focus on organic growth”. The firm will raise its R&D spending and “selectively strengthen early research at the interface between health care and crop science”.

He repeated a forecast made early in the year that five key new drugs - the anticoagulant Xarelto (rivaroxaban), the eye drug Eylea (aflibercept) and the new cancer treatments Xofigo (radium 223) and Stivarga (regorafenib), plus the pulmonary hypertension treatment Adempas (riociguat) - will have combined peak sales of at least 7.5 billion euros. Previously, the estimate was 5.5 billion euros.

Following the flotation, the material science unit will be Europe's fourth-largest chemical company, with global sales of more than 11 billion euros last year. It will have a workforce of roughly 16,800, including about 6,500 in Germany and be headquartered in Leverkusen.