Bayer third-quarter profit beats forecasts on pharma, pesticides

The logo of Bayer AG is pictured at the Bayer Healthcare subgroup production plant in Wuppertal, Germany February 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Bayer BAYGn.DE, the German drugmaker that is buying U.S. seed company Monsanto MON.N, beat expectations for third-quarter earnings as it kept pharmaceuticals selling expenses in check and raised prices for farming pesticides.

Third-quarter profit before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), adjusted for one-off items, rose 6 percent to 2.68 billion euros (2 billion pounds), above the average estimate of 2.52 billion euros in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Sales of prescription drugs rose more than 7 percent, led by stroke-prevention pill Xarelto and eye drug Eylea, broadly in line with the market view, but Bayer unexpectedly managed to keep selling expenses flat.

Bayer shares were flat in early trading, slightly outperforming the German blue-chip index .GDAXI, which slid 0.3 percent.

Bayer's plastics business Covestro 1COV.DE already reported better-than-expected earnings on Tuesday, boosted by growth in China and by rivals' production outages.

Bayer’s crop protection division, traditionally weak in the third quarter, managed to lift prices even though subdued demand, particularly in Latin America, showed no signs of rebounding.

Bayer, the inventor of aspirin and maker of Yasmin birth control pills, now aims to increase full-year core earnings per share from continuing operations by a high-single-digit percentage, compared with a previous goal of a mid- to high-single-digit percentage gain.

Under its plan to close the $66 billion Monsanto deal by end-2017, Bayer said it would seek approval in the United States before the end of 2016, followed by the European Union likely in the first quarter of 2017.

Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Tina Bellon and Georgina Prodhan