Strong sales boost Roche numbers
Swiss drugmaker Roche expects sales to hold up this year as strong sales of its top three cancer medicine and improvements in productivity pushed it to an 11 per cent rise in full-year earnings.
The Basel-based drugmaker said it hoped sales this year will grow in line with 2012, when group sales rose 7 per cent to 45.5 billion Swiss francs (€36.6 billion).
It is also aiming for core earnings per share to grow ahead of sales, and pledged to keep hiking shareholder payouts.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast sales to grow in the low double-digits in 2013 while they expected profit to rise in the high single digits.
Roche's assessment was more upbeat than cross-town rival Novartis which guided for a fall in profit in 2013 as it grapples with competition from cheaper copies of its top-selling product.
The world's largest maker of cancer drugs has been spared the pain from a wave of patent expiries sweeping the global drugs industry as most of its medicines do not face imminent generic competition.
Some analysts have raised red flags about the loss of exclusivity on chemotherapy drug Xeloda at the end of 2013 and possible competition for hepatitis C drug Pegasys from other oral treatments, which they say could drag on Roche's mid-term growth.
But Roche hopes sales of its newest products, like skin cancer drug Zelboraf and breast cancer medicine Perjeta, will plug the gap, and is developing follow-on medicines to try and fend off anticipated competition from so-called biosimilar copies of its cancer drugs.
Sales of Perjeta, a treatment for women with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer, were 56 million francs so far, up from 26 million in the third quarter.
Perjeta is a follow-on to Roche's current second-biggest seller Herceptin and part of its strategy to develop new drugs to extend the longevity of its best-selling brands. It won approval from US regulators in June.
Roche posted an 11 per cent rise in 2012 core earnings per share to 13.62 Swiss francs, compared with 12.30 a year ago. Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast 13.60 francs.