Merck KGaA group sales for the full year grew 8.5% to 6.3 billion euros, with all of its business segments contributing to the sales growth. For the fourth quarter, turnover climbed 9.0% to 1.6 billion, as a strong performance by the group’s cancer drug Erbitux buoyed negative currency effects.

The strong sales helped push the group’s full-year earnings before interest and tax up 39% to 1.3 billion euros, while net income for 2006 leapt 49% to 658.9 million euros and 18% to 130 million euros for the fourth quarter.

The pharmaceuticals segment turned in a solid performance for the year, with revenues climbing 8.6% to 4.1 billion euros, representing about two-thirds of total group sales, while fourth-quarter turnover grew by the same amount to just over 1 billion euros.

Sales by the Ethicals division rose 11% to 1.9 billion euros in 2006 driven, in part, by turnover of Erbitux, approved for the treatment of colorectal cancer and head and neck cancer, and sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb and ImClone in the USA, which leapt 55% to 337 million euros. The generics division booked sales growth of 6.9% to 1.2 billion euros.

An "outstanding" year

Commenting on the results, Dr Michael Roemer, Chairman of the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, said: “The year 2006 was an outstanding time for Merck. Again in 2006, Merck posted record figures on all result levels.”

2007 should mark a year of significant change for the firm, which has just completed the purchase of Swiss biotech Serono for 10.6 billion euros. The new entity, which should have proforma sales of around 7.7 billion euros, has been crowned Merck-Serono Biopharmaceuticals, and will be headquartered in Geneva with a US base in Boston.