Biotech drugmaker Amgen's 3Q profit jumps 24 per cent on stronger sales of most of its drugs

TRENTON, N.J. – Biotech drugmaker Amgen Inc. said Tuesday that its third-quarter profit jumped 24 per cent, trouncing analysts’ expectations, as sales of more than a half-dozen of its drugs increased by double digits, one of them helped by a big government purchase.

The steady performance came just before Amgen closed its $9.7 billion purchase of Onyx Pharmaceuticals on Oct. 1. That deal is part of Amgen’s strategy to expand beyond its medicines for easing side effects of some cancer treatments and become a major player in the market for pricey cancer drugs.

Amgen has also just begun joint ventures to sell colorectal cancer drug Vectibix in China and to develop and then sell five medicines in Japan. Japan is the world’s second-biggest medicine market, after the U.S., and China is spending more on health care, making its huge, aging population a growth target for most pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Executives on a conference call with analysts laid out a multipronged strategy to expand sales into more countries and new disease areas, particularly heart disease. The company is best known for arthritis treatment Enbrel and Prolia for osteoporosis.

“Our pipeline now includes 10 late-stage programs set to generate pivotal data” within several years, CEO Robert Bradway noted.

Amgen said its third-quarter net income was $1.37 billion, or $1.79 per share, up from $1.11 billion, or $1.41 per share, a year earlier.

The Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based company said earnings were $1.94 per share excluding one-time items, mainly costs related to acquisitions, efficiency efforts and issuing stock options. Analysts were expecting $1.76 per share.

Revenue climbed 10 per cent to $4.75 billion, topping the $4.6 billion analysts expected.

“It was a solid but not remarkable quarter,” said Edward Jones analyst Judson Clark.

Amgen’s stock rose $1.29 to $117 in after-hours trading after rising $2.57, or 2.3 per cent, to $116.21 during the regular trading session.

Amgen beat the profit forecast handily due to a lower tax rate and strong sales of nearly all its drugs. That included what’s likely a one-time, $155 million U.S. government order for Neupogen, a drug for boosting infection-fighting white blood cells that also protects the body against radiation exposure.

“If we back that (purchase) out, everything else seems to come back down to Earth” on expectations for results in coming quarters, Clark said.

He noted that next month Neupogen is expected to get cheaper competition — a similar, but not identical, biologic drug — that will cut into sales. However, Amgen has already nudged most patients onto a newer version called Neulasta that has patent protection well beyond then.

Sales in the quarter were led by Enbrel, up 7 per cent at $1.16 billion, followed closely by Neulasta, up 9 per cent at $1.14 billion. Prolia and a related bone drug, Xgeva, together were up 41 per cent at $439 million. But Aranesp for anemia saw sales decline 10 per cent to $449 million.

Amgen raised the lower end of its 2013 profit forecast by a nickel and now expects $7.35 to $7.45 per share.


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