Germany’s Bayer will be wearing a smile this morning after upping its 2005 earnings expectations for its once-embattled healthcare business, on the back of strong first quarter results [[29/04/05b]].

Chairman Werner Wenning said: “The outlook for Bayer HealthCare has improved significantly since the beginning of the year, with business benefiting from a strong flu season in the first quarter. In addition, savings in the pharmaceuticals division and synergies in consumer care were achieved more quickly than originally planned.” Sales in healthcare grew 5% in the first quarter of 2005, to 2.1 billion euros, thanks to the acquisition of the Roche consumer health business [[22/11/04c]], and Bayer says it “more than offset” the decline in sales of its once top-selling antibiotic Cipro (ciprofloxacin) – following a patent expiry in the US [[11/06/04e]]. Underlying earnings before interest and tax for the unit improved by 8.6% to 302 million euros.

The company has had a tumultuous few years following the 2001 withdrawal of its cholesterol-lowering agent Baycol/Lipobay (cerivastatin) [[08/08/01a]], but now appears to be climbing back onto solid ground. Its healthcare business is now forecast to witness an operating result (earnings before interest and tax) above that of last year.

Overall, Bayer Group is targeting a 5% sales increase to more than 25 billion euros, while its operating result is expected to jump 20%.