Bayer Schering Pharma, the drug business of Germany's Bayer AG, expects its revenues in Asia to rise by around 17 percent to more than 1.9 billion euros.

($2.6 billion) this year, driven by soaring sales in China. Business in our region is doing very well. For the first time we are ahead of Japan in terms of sales, Chris Lee, Bayer Schering Pharma's regional head, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Year-to-date, we are looking at 16 to 17 percent sales growth, he said.

Lee added that he expects to maintain that growth rate, which compares with annual pharmaceuticals industry growth in Asia of around 7 percent, for the whole of 2007.

Asia Pacific, which excludes Japan, is the fastest-growing among the group's five business regions.

In China, the company has recorded 51 percent sales growth in the first seven months of 2007, due to strong demand for so-called primary care drugs such as those to treat cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes.

The country generated around a fifth of regional sales last year and Lee said that share is likely to rise to 30 percent by the end of 2008.

Bayer Schering Pharma has more than 5,000 staff in Asia and runs seven manufacturing sites on the continent -- in China, Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan and India.

Lee, who has worked in the pharmaceuticals industry for 18 years, said that most of the clinical trials for its products in Asia are now taking place in Beijing.

China has a bigger patient pool so it naturally became our biggest centre for clinical trials, he said.

The company is also looking to make an investment in Asia, where Lee said Bayer Schering is underrepresented.

We will be focusing more on India in the near future, he said but declined to detail his plans.