SWITZERLAND: Switzerland’s Roche <ROG.S>, the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs, raised its 2017 outlook on Thursday after first-half profit beat market expectations and its new multiple sclerosis drug got off to a solid start. Chief Executive Severin Schwan told reporters he remained confident the group could deliver sales growth, despite the arrival of biosimilar rivals, by introducing new drugs including likely blockbuster Ocrevus against multiple sclerosis (MS).
Ocrevus, launched in the United States in April, generated 192 million Swiss francs ($202 million) of sales amid strong demand in both types of MS it treats. “Ocrevus pulls in monster first quarter on the market,” Bernstein analysts headlined their report on the results. The firm’s shares climbed 2.1 percent in early trading, outpacing the Stoxx European Sector index <.SXDP> which was up 0.3 percent. Roche said it now expected 2017 sales to grow at a mid-single-digit rate at constant exchange rates. Core earnings per share were set to grow broadly in line with sales, and it reiterated it expected to raise its dividend. Roche had earlier forecast 2017 sales to grow at a low- to mid-single-digit pace, with core earnings per share broadly in line with sales. Core earnings per share rose 6 percent to 8.23 francs, faster than 5 percent sales growth to 26.34 billion francs. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected core EPS of 7.93 francs on sales of 26.11 billion francs. Roche has also been hit by trials that could complicate its efforts. The firm’s new immunotherapy Tecentriq failed in a trial against bladder cancer and its breast-cancer combination Herceptin and Perjeta have also disappointed.
But Schwan dismissed concerns about the Herceptin and Perjeta combination treatment, saying he was very pleased with clinical results. First-half sales in the pharmaceuticals division increased 5 percent to 20.5 billion francs. Recently launched medicines Tecentriq, Ocrevus and Alecensa contributed 0.5 billion francs of new sales, or half the division’s growth, it said.