German drugs and chemicals maker Bayer AG has bought private US group Metrika for an undisclosed amount, in a move designed to strengthen its diabetes care offering.

Metrika manufactures and sells A1CNow+, a meter-based diabetes monitoring system that has single-use, disposable test cartridges.

The deal enables Bayer to market “the first and only device for use both at home as well as in the professional setting for monitoring of HbA1c, perhaps the most important indicator of blood sugar control,” remarked Sandra Peterson, President of Bayer Diabetes Care. “The addition of A1CNow+ complements and strengthens our portfolio to include a full spectrum of products for total diabetes diagnosis and management,” she added.

Bayer obviously sees diabetes as an important driver of future growth, given that this acquisition follows a move earlier this week which saw the group sell its diagnostics division to Siemens for 4.2 billion euros, but hold back the diabetes care unit.

Meanwhile, Bayer said it is divesting over 1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in new shares to help pay for its 17 billion euro takeover of rival German drugmaker Schering AG, in a move that will create a new company with 15 billion euros in annual sales and a pharmaceutical division - Bayer-Schering Pharmaceuticals - that will rank among the top 12 in the world.

Combined pharmaceutical revenues would be around $10.8 billion, still some way behind the top companies like Pfizer ($51.3bn), GlaxoSmithKline ($38bn), Sanofi-Aventis and Novartis (both with $33bn in 2005 sales). But the division would be among the biggest specialty pharma companies in the world, offering higher margins than primary care-focused companies, with smaller salesforces and products that are easier to defend in the marketplace.