Bayer has posted a strong set of figures for the first quarter which reveal a 53.5% leap in net income to 1.05 billion euros, and group turnover rising 6.8% to a record 10.06 billion euros.

Sales at the German group’s healthcare division were up 2.1% (currency-and portfolio-adjusted) to 4.34 billion euros, while pharmaceutical revenues increased 1.6% to 2.52 billion euros. Growth was achieved mainly in the emerging markets, especially China. and there were "slight decreases elsewhere, particularly in most European countries".

As for specific drugs, the Yaz/Yasmin/Yasminelle (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol) contraceptive franchise slipped 0.6% to 244 million euros, while Mirena, the firm’s levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine contraceptive system, climbed 8.3% to 160 million euros. Revenues of Betaferon/Betaseron (interferon beta 1b) for multiple sclerosis fell 1.5% to 276 million euros, while Bayer's biggest-seller was the haemophilia agent Kogenate (recombinant antihaemophilic factor), up 1.9% to 295 million euros.

Nexavar (sorafenib), which is approved for liver as well as advanced kidney cancer, contributed 186 million euros, up 4.5%. The erectile dysfunction drug Levitra (vardenafil) slipped 9.3% to 75 million euros, while the anticoagulant Xarelto (rivaroxaban), which Bayer believes will be its key earnings driver, contributed 42 million euros, up from 16 million euros in the like, year-earlier period.

Chief executive Marijn Dekkers (pictured) noted that all Bayer's subgroups contributed to the encouraging increase in sales, particularly CropScience. He noted that “in view of the good start to 2012, we are increasingly confident for the rest of the year,” but "given the continuing uncertainties", Bayer is currently sticking to guidance for the full year that was issued at the end of February, namely a 3% rise in group sales to 37 billion euros.

Healthcare sales should increase by a low- to mid-single-digit percentage, although earnings are likely to be hampered by higher marketing expenses and the effects of the genericisation of Yasmin in Europe.