Belgium-based pharmaceutical and chemicals group Solvay has reported record financial results for the full year 2005, helped by strong sales of its drugs and a capital gain on the divestment of its polyethylene unit.

The group saw its net income soar 51% to 816 million euros for the year ended December 31, boosted by strong sales growth, which climbed 18% to 8.6 billion euros, although the result fell slightly short of analysts’ expectations.

Sales were led by a strong performance by the Solvay’s pharmaceutical unit, which jumped 30% to $2.3 billion, boosted by the 1.3 billion euro ($1.5 billion) purchase of French group Fournier Pharma during the year. Solvay said that fenofibrate, Fournier Pharma's "blockbuster," performed above its expectations since its addition to the books on August 1.

According to the firm, “the record results achieved in 2005 and the structural improvement of operating margins are the fruit of our strategy of innovation, leadership and competitiveness as well as the more rapid development of pharmaceuticals and specialties. The group began 2006 in favourable conditions despite the significant increases in energy costs.”