Altana has posted a full-year operating profit of 676 million euros for 2005, up a healthy 12% and in line with its expectations, and said it expects another solid gain this year.

The German chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturer, which reported sales figures in January, said the increase in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) came on the back of a strong performance by its leading gastrointestinal drug Pantozol/Protonix (pantoprazole).

Altana’s chief executive, Nicholas Schweickart, said he expects pharma sales to rise by 10% each year to reach around 3 billion euros in 2008. Overall group sales should rise 20% this year, he added, while pretax profits should grow between 5% and 9%.

Altana is in the middle of a restructuring exercise aimed at extricating its Altana Chemie and Altana Pharma units from the current group structure as well as make it easier to find a strategic partner for the pharmaceutical unit.

Six weeks ago the company hired Goldman Sachs to start approaching individual companies, and it was said that a billion-euro fund had been earmarked for investments in pharma. But the hostile takeover bid by fellow German company Merck KGaA for Schering AG could have taken two likely partners out of the running, according to analysts.

Altana Pharma needs a partner to help reduce its reliance on pantoprazole, due to start losing patent protection in 2009, particularly given setbacks the firm has suffered with its two key pipeline products, the corticosteroid Alvesco (ciclesonide) and Daxas (roflumilast) for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Alvesco’s sales growth has been held back by a delay in its US approval, while Altana was forced to withdraw a marketing application for Daxas in Europe after it became clear it would need additional clinical data to support the dossier.