Germany’s Schering AG has witnessed a 7% rise in operating profits for the first quarter of 2005, helped by strong sales of its flagship contraceptive Yasmin (ethinyl estradiol/drospirenone). And, giving investors something else to smile about, the company also revealed that it expects profitability to improve again this year.

Overall, Schering reaped 230 million euros in quarterly operating profit, beating analysts’ expectations, while net profit jumped 11% to 144 million euros and earnings per share rose 13% to 0.76 euros. In addition to a good showing from Yasmin, which is now the top-selling birth control pill worldwide, the company’s multiple sclerosis drug Betaferon/Betaseron (interferon beta-1b) also put in a positive performance – up 4% to 181 million euros - helping overall sales climb 4% to 1.2 billion euros. Although the German firm said growth was hampered 2% by the strong euro, Dr Hubertus Erlen, Chairman of the Executive Board of Schering AG added: “Based on a healthy business and further efficiency improvements, we will also continue to improve our profitability this year.”

For 2005, it is forecasting mid single-digit growth in net sales, pushed along by double-digit rises in Yasmin revenues and continued mid-single digit growth from Betaseron. And the company will also be keeping its fingers crossed for good news on up and coming products and indications. Quarter two will see the unveiling of late-stage data from a trial of asoprisnil in uterine fibroids, while the third quarter sees the release of the BENEFIT study of Betaferon in early-stage MS. Later on in the year is crunch time for its new contraceptive Yaz and its hormone replacement therapy Angeliq (estradiol with drospirenone), which will come before the US Food and Drug Administration after earlier approvable letters [[22/11/04e]], [[25/11/04d]], [[16/09/04c]].

The company’s six-month interim report is expected to be released on July 22.