German drugmaker Schering AG’s is a step closer to attaining its targets for the full year, after its multiple sclerosis and oral contraceptive drugs performed well in the first quarter to drive an overall solid growth.

In its preliminary results release, the company, which has accepted a $20 billion marriage by German drugs and chemicals heavyweight Bayer, said its first-quarter net profit leapt 21% to 174 million euros, or 0.92 euros a share. This was driven by a robust 16% hike in net sales to 1.41 billion euros, led by Schering’s popular MS drug Betaferon/Betaseron (interferon beta-1b), turnover of which jumped 23% to 232 million euros, and the contraceptive Yasmin (drospirenone plus ethinyl estradiol), leaping 34% 180 million euros.

Commenting on the results, Hubertus Erlen, the firm’s chairman, remarked: “The strong net sales increase in the first quarter is the continued reflection of our dynamic growth trend of the last year. These excellent figures will propel us towards reaching our set goals for 2006.”

If the group’s merger with Bayer goes ahead as planned, the new entity would generate estimated annual revenues of nearly 15 billion euros, with the pharmaceutical operations combined into a new division - Bayer Schering Pharmaceuticals, which would be based in Berlin and have sales of around 9 billion euros. It would rank as the 12th-largest drugmaker.