By GEIR MOULSON

Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) -- Hefty special charges caused a fourth-quarter loss at Bayer AG, though the pharmaceutical and chemical company said Monday that revenues rose by 14.5 percent, led by increasing sales of high-tech materials and agricultural products.

Bayer said it lost ¤145 million ($199 million) in the quarter, compared with a net profit of ¤153 million a year earlier. It said one-time charges for the quarter totaled ¤954 million, more than double the previous year's figure, including impairment losses on the Schering brand name, which the company is dropping.

Revenues were up 14.5 percent, climbing to ¤9.01 billion from ¤7.87 billion.

Bayer said that its MaterialScience unit, which produces high-tech materials such as polycarbonates and polyurethanes, led the way with growth of 28 percent and its crop science unit saw an increase of 18 percent, while health care sales were up a more modest 7.3 percent.

Analysts had forecast a fourth-quarter profit of ¤303 million, but revenues beat their ¤8.58 billion prediction.

Bayer said that the 2010 performance of its crop science and health care units was "below expectations."

Overall, though, CEO Marijn Dekkers said that "we are confident for this year, which has gotten off to a successful start."

The company's full-year net earnings declined 4.3 percent to ¤1.3 billion from ¤1.36 billion. Special charges for the full year totaled ¤1.72 billion.

However, revenues advanced 12.6 percent to ¤31.17 billion from ¤35.09 billion.

Bayer said pretax earnings at its pharmaceutical business slipped 1.4 percent in 2010 due to the effect of various countries' health care reforms. It said the unit's sales in North America were down last year, due in particular to generic competition for its Yaz oral contraceptives.

Bayer pointed to an improved overall operating performance last year in proposing that its dividend be increased to ¤1.50 per share from ¤1.40.

The company said it expects sales and pre-tax earnings growth in all its units this year "provided that the economy steadily improves."

It forecast sales growth in 2011 of between 4 and 6 percent on a currency- and portfolio-adjusted basis to between ¤35 billion and ¤36 billion. Pre-tax earnings before special items should grow "toward ¤7.5 billion" from last year's ¤7.1 billion, the company said.

For 2012, Bayer forecast sales growth of about 5 percent and pre-tax earnings of some ¤8 billion.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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