Schering AG this morning unveiled more financial results for the first quarter, with an impressive net sales growth of 16% hurdling the 1.4 billion euro mark - a figure that should put a smile on would-be purchaser Bayer’s face. On the downside, operating profit rose just 4% to 240 million euros as the firm was negatively impacted by divestitures and takeover offers. However, taking these aside, the operating result rose 22% to 280 million euros and Schering says its operating margin for the first three months was approximately 20%.

Revenues for the first three months were driven by the oral contraceptive Yasmin (drospirenone plus ethinyl estradiol), which jumped 34% to 180 million euros, having stolen the crown as market leader.

Although the firm’s gynaecology and andrology business took top spot in the leader board, with growth of 21%, Schering’s stalwart multiple sclerosis drug, Betaferon (interferon beta-1b), also put in another sterling performance – rising 23% to 232 million euros – and re-affirming its position as Schering’s top-selling drug. But there was also a pleasing input from Schering’s oncology business, which recorded a double-digit net sales increase of 20%, headed by Fludara (fludarabine), Campath (alemtuzumab) and Bonefos (clodronate).

The German firm saw exceptional growth in the quarter in Latin America and Canada (up 28%), as well as solid improvements of 14% in both Europe and the USA.

“This dynamic growth will help us achieve our set goals for 2006,” said Dr Hubertus Erlen, Chairman of the Executive Board of Schering AG. “At the same time, we are progressing well with the implementation of our efficiency improvement programmes.”

Net profit amounted to 174 million euros (+21%), while earnings per share were 0.92 euros (+21%).

If the group's merger with Bayer goes ahead as planned, the new entity would generate estimated annual revenues of nearly 15 billion euros. Bayer Schering Pharmaceuticals would rank as the 12th-largest drugmaker in the world.