KENILWORTH, N.J. (AP) _ Schering-Plough Corp. said Friday that Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Fred Hassan has purchased almost $4.7 million worth of the company's common stock.

Hassan, who bought 303,500 shares, took over as chief executive of the Kenilworth-based pharmaceutical company in April.

In August, he said in a regulatory filing that he wanted to acquire Schering-Plough stock because of his ``long-term confidence in the company.''

At that time, the stock was at a low ebb. The shares fell from a year high of $23.75 on Jan. 7 to a year low of $14.16 on Aug. 22.

Schering-Plough has 1.5 billion shares outstanding.

Earlier this month, Hassan predicted profit will start rising by around 15 percent a year in 2005 and beyond, but warned of tough times until then as the company's main hepatitis C drug has fallen to second place in the U.S. market.

Hassan told Schering-Plough's annual meeting for securities analysts that growth would be driven by more vigorous promotion of the company's drugs plus sales of a new combination cholesterol pill.

Schering-Plough has been struggling since it lost patent protection on the allergy drug Claritin last year and gave up much of the market in hepatitis C drugs to a new entrant, Roche Holding AG.

In Friday morning trading, shares of Schering-Plough climbed 38 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $15.76 on the New York Stock Exchange.