German chemical and pharmaceutical company Altana posted a good set of preliminary 2005 figures, with sales up 10% to 3.3 billion euros ($4 billion), but analysts are still concerned that the firm’s new products are not advancing fast enough to reduce its reliance on its biggest product.

Altana Pharma sales came in at 2.4 billion euros, driven once again by the firm’s top seller, ulcer drug Pantozol/Protonix (pantoprazole), which climbed 12% to 1.4 billion euros. Overall sales of pantoprazole, including those by Altana’s partners, rose by the same margin to 2.8 billion euros for the year.

But Alvesco (ciclesonide), Altana’s corticosteroid for asthma that debuted in 2005, has not performed as well as hoped, bringing in 8 million euros in its first year, at the bottom end of Altana’s expectations. The company also suffered another major blow when it was forced to withdraw a European marketing application for Daxas (roflumilast) in November 2005.

The problems with these two key pipeline projects have led to speculation that Altana may sell off the drug unit - a move that has been denied by Altana’s management.

Altana’s chief executive, Nikolaus Schweickart, said last year that the firm was looking for strategic partner for the pharma business, and had also set aside 1 billion euros to boost the division via acquisitions and in-licensed products.

Altana Chemie, which was boosted last year by the purchase of Eckart, reported sales of 907 million euros in 2005, up 6%. It is due to be listed on the stock exchange as an independent operation later this year.

Altana said it expects to report double-digit growth in earnings before taxes for 2005 as a whole, with an earnings volume of about 680 million euros.