Dutch pharmaceuticals, coatings and chemicals group Akzo Nobel has posted a 7% drop in third-quarter pretax profit to 315 million euros, as growth in emerging markets and reduced margin pressure helped push the result to the top end of analysts’ predictions.

The group’s troubled pharmaceuticals unit, Organon, continued to see recovering sales trends across most treatment areas, the group said, with revenues up 1% to 509 million euros. But this was not enough to buffer a substantial rise in R&D expenses, pushing earnings before interest and tax, excluding exceptional items, down 17% to 68 million.

Commenting on the division’s performance, the company’s chief financial officer, Rob Frohn, said: “Organon continued to show top-line growth across the board in the quarter with NuvaRing and the new Puregon Pen delivering strong contributions. We continue to invest in the future with R&D expenditures ramping up significantly as we make further pipeline progress.”

Akzo’s outlook for the full year remains unchanged, calling for net income in line with that generated for 2004, at around 800 million euros.

Meanwhile, the group announced that Organon’s Nobilon unit is working on the development of a human vaccine against notorious avian flu strain H5N1, with clinical studies expected to start next year [[18/10/05f]]. In addition, the division has recently received approval to begin producing human influenza vaccine against circulating strains of the virus for use in clinical trials, with these also scheduled for 2006.

"The current situation in Europe highlights the urgent need for a human vaccine against this potentially lethal infection," noted Toon Wilderbeek, a group board member responsible for pharmaceuticals. “We are active on a number of fronts regarding the production of human and animal vaccines to counter this particular threat," he added.