Merck KGaA is sticking to its initial target to make more than 1 billion euros ($1.45 billion) in sales from its Erbitux cancer drug as early as 2011, its chief executive told a German weekly.

Merck through the timeframe to reach so-called blockbuster status in 2011 into doubt after an EU advisory panel recommended Erbitux, already approved for tumours of the bowel as well as head and neck, should not be used to treat lung tumours. [ID:nLN374194]

I'm optimistic that Erbitux will be used against lung cancer some time after our appeal, albeit not to the extent that we had initially envisaged, CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley told Wirtschaftswoche magazine in an interview provided to Reuters on Friday ahead of publication on Monday.

The head of Merck's drugs unit, Elmar Schnee, told Reuters last month that the biotech drug would likely become a blockbuster even without any revenue from lung cancer sales before the Erbitux patent expires in 2014.

Merck is now trying to persuade the panel, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP), whose assessments generally guide European drug approval decisions, to reconsider its rejection, which came in spite of promising results in a late-stage trial.

In the interview with Wirtschaftswoche, the CEO also said that demand at its liquid crystals unit, one of the group's main cash cows, has recovered.

Merck is the world's largest maker of liquid crystals, the key chemicals for flat-panel displays, or LCDs.

Makers of flat-screen TVs sold off their inventories during the economic crisis, Kley said.

(Inventories) are empty, orders are now coming in again. Demand for LCD TVs remains strong, he was quoted as saying.

The company was looking into takeovers in all areas of its business but not at any price, the CEO said.

Takeover could serve to bolster its strong presence in certain chemicals markets or to expand its specialty drugs business more widely across world regions, he added.

($1=.6879 Euro)

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; editing by Simon Jessop)