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COLOGNE, Germany, April 25 (Reuters) - Bayer AG forecast a double-digit rise in annual profit on Friday after a stronger first quarter and said it had settled out of court many more lawsuits over anti-cholesterol drug Baycol, lifting its shares.

LEVERKUSEN, Germany -(Dow Jones)- According to preliminary figures, the Bayer Group recorded sales of EUR 7.3 billion from continuing operations in the first quarter of 2003.

As the company announced, this represents a year-on-year increase of more than 4% after translation and an improvement of over 15% in local currencies.

Provisional first-quarter data so far available indicate that the operating result also exceeded the figure for the same period of 2002, which was EUR840 million.
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