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German pharmaceuticals and chemicals giant Bayer said net profit grew by 10.2 percent to 4.5 billion euros last year/AFP

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Bayer says Monsanto deal on track, eyes record 2017

German pharmaceuticals and chemicals giant Bayer said net profit grew by 10.2 percent to 4.5 billion euros last year/AFP

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany, Feb 22 – German pharmaceuticals and chemicals giant Bayer on Wednesday reported record sales and profits for 2016 and said it expected further growth in 2017, as its goal to seal a mammoth takeover of US seedmaker Monsanto remains on track.

“We again posted a record operating performance and are making good progress with the agreed acquisition of Monsanto as well,” chief executive Werner Baumann said in a statement.

The Aspirin-maker said net profit grew by 10.2 percent to 4.5 billion euros ($4.7 billion) last year, slightly below the 4.7 billion euros analysts surveyed by Factset had expected.

Group sales increased by 1.5 percent to 46.8 billion euros, in line with expectations, while underlying or operating profit before special items was up 10.2 percent at 11.3 billion euros.

Growth was mainly powered by Bayer’s prescription medicine division, led by a 30-percent jump in sales for its blockbuster drug Xarelto, an anti-coagulant.

The over-the-counter medicines unit, which includes household brands such as Alka-Seltzer and Rennie antacids, saw earnings fall.

The firm’s closely watched agrochemicals division disappointed in 2016, hit by what Bayer said was a weak market environment “particularly in Latin America” and falling demand for insecticides globally.

Bayer’s agriculture activities are in the spotlight as it seeks a $66-billion takeover of US seed and pesticide supplier Monsanto, in what would be the largest ever acquisition by a German firm.

The deal still requires regulatory approval from the European Union and the United States.

“Bayer and Monsanto are working closely with the authorities. Bayer remains confident of closing the transaction before the end of 2017,” the firm said in a statement.

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The proposed tie-up would create an agrochemical behemoth which environmental activists who have called the deal a “marriage made in hell” fear would hold excessive power over farmers and the food chain.

Looking ahead, Bayer said it expects group sales to grow to more than 49 billion euros in 2017, and a “mid-to-single-digit percentage” increase in underlying profits.

“We have every reason to be optimistic about the future and started the new business year well,” said Baumann.

Bayer had already announced on Tuesday that it would pay out an increased divided for 2016 of 2.70 euros per share, up from 2.50 euros for 2015.

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