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Boehringer's 2006 Net Rises, Will Stay Independent

Boehringer Ingelheim's net profit rose 14% last year, driven by three blockbuster drugs, the unlisted German drugmaker said on Tuesday, as it reaffirmed its goal of staying independent.

Net profit at Boehringer, owned by the Boehringer family, rose to 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) on the back of an 11% rise in net sales to 10.6 billion euros.

Sales growth at Boehringer slowed last year after rising 17% in 2005, which made it among the fastest growing drug firms as its anti-rheumatic drug Mobic was hit by generic arrivals.

The drug maker aims to grow faster than the average pharmaceutical company, which saw a 6% growth rate last year. It said it expects sales to rise by a high single-figure digit this year or even in double digits because its key products still had considerable potential.

The industry closely watches the company as its products compete with those of Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline .

Boehringer was recently ousted by Bayer as Germany's top drugmaker by sales after Bayer bought rival Schering. It is now ranked 15th in the world with a market share of almost 2%.

Boehringer Ingelheim

Chief Executive Alessandro Banchi reaffirmed the benefit of Boehringer's independence, which allowed it to focus on research and development without worrying about meeting market expectations, shrugging off concerns over the loss of its top ranking position.

"We don't buy sales. We buy R&D. For the present, we have enough growth coming from existing products. Why should we spend our money to add sales we don't need," Banchi told Reuters.

"We are concerned about the future. That's where we put the money," he added.

Boehringer's finance head Marbod Muff also said ranking was irrelevant.

"What matters only is that our product pipelines will always be full," Muff told reporters.

Boehringer spent 1.6 billion euros in research and development last year, up 16% from the previous year.

"We can only remain independent...if we are successful in R&D. That's the name of the game," Banchi said.

Last year, operating profit rose 11% to 2.1 billion euros as sales of Spiriva, use to treat smoker's lung, hypertension drug Micardis and prostate drug Flomax more than offset sales declines in Mobic.

Spiriva's net sales rose 45% to almost 1.4 billion euros, followed by rises of 34% and 28% respectively in Micardis and Flomax to almost one billion euros.

The company, which also makes drugs to treat respiratory and heart diseases, Parkinson's disease, AIDS and arthritis, was founded in 1885 by Albert Boehringer and is owned by less than 20 of his descendants.

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