The German pharmaceutical and chemicals giant Bayer has returned to profits in 2004 after experiencing a bottom-line loss of €1.361 billion ($1.78 billion) in 2003. On Wednesday, the aspirin maker reported a net profit for 2004 of €603 million. Underlying earnings for 2004 also improved, with operating profit before special items rising by 53.1 percent to €2.244 billion, Bayer said in a statement. According to chairman Werner Wenning, the improvement in earnings was attributable to "a marked upturn in business," as well as cost-cutting and efficiency-boosting measures. "We were therefore able to more than offset the sharp rise in raw materials prices, negative currency effects and the expiration of the US patent" for the wide-spectrum anti-biotic Cipro, he said. Bayer shareholders can look forward to an increase in the dividend payout to €0.55 per share for 2004 from €0.50 for 2003 after the positive results.