Germany’s Bayer saw its income drop 21% to for 2009 as sales dipped 5.3% to 31.2 billion euros, but the group claims the year was “operationally one of the strongest”.

The company booked earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) before special items of 6.5 billion euros, which the firm points out is the third-highest level in Bayer’s history. And net cash flow rocketed 49% to hit a record 5.4 billion euros, allowing the group to slash its net financial debt by 4.5 billion euros to 9.7 billion euros.

Bayer’s HealthCare division turned in a solid performance for the year, posting sales growth of 3.8% (both nominally and when adjusted for currency and portfolio effects) to 16 billion euros, driven by a strong performance by the pharmaceuticals segment, which saw revenues climb 4.4 % to 10.5 billion euros, helped by a 28% leap in turnover of the cancer drug Nexavar (sorafenib).

For a full analysis of Bayer’s results by our on-site reporter in Leverkusen, Germany, please see Monday’s PharmaTimes World News Elert.