UPDATE 3-Biogen 4th-qtr results top expectations; shares up

Tue Feb 1, 2011 10:39am EST

* Biogen Q4 non-GAAP EPS $1.42/shr vs $1.23 cents/shr view

* Revenue up 8 percent to $1.22 billion

* Tysabri sales up 12 percent at $333 million

* Sees 2011 non-GAAP EPS to be above $5.70/shr

* Shares rise 2.2 percent in midmorning trading (Adds company comment, updates share price)

By Toni Clarke

BOSTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Biogen Idec Inc (BIIB.O) reported fourth-quarter results that topped expectations and issued a better-than-expected 2011 forecast on Tuesday, sending the company's shares up more than 2 percent.

The Weston, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company said net profit fell 21 percent to $240 million, or 99 cents a share due to restructuring, but sales of its multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri rose a higher-than-expected 12 percent to $333 million.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $1.22 billion, driven mainly by sales of Tysabri, which Biogen sells in partnership with Irish drugmaker Elan Corp Plc ELN.I.

Excluding one-time items, Biogen earned $1.42 a share. Analysts on average expected the company to earn $1.23 a share on revenue of $1.17 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The results were helped by a lower tax rate.

Sales of the company's multiple sclerosis drug Avonex rose 10 percent to $654 million, topping analyst expectations for sales of $640 million.

Sales of Avonex have been helped by repeated price increases, something that the company has said cannot continue indefinitely.

"Our goal is to put U.S. Avonex market share back on a growth trajectory," said Doug Williams, the company's new head of research and development, on a conference call with analysts.

Biogen said it expects 2011 earnings excluding one-time items to top $5.70 a share, and 2011 revenue growth to be between flat and the low single digits.

Analysts on average are expecting 2011 earnings excluding items of $5.63 per share and revenue of $4.68 billion.

Biogen is battling to maintain market share as new competitors enter the market. In September, Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG (NOVN.VX) introduced Gilenya, the first multiple sclerosis pill. Drugs like Avonex and Tysabri must be injected or infused.

Novartis recently reported that in the first quarter of the drug's launch in the United States, 2,000 patients were on the drug at the end of 2010.

The company said about 50 percent of Gilenya patients had been treated with a different MS drug within the prior 12 months and of these, 80-85 percent switched from an injectable drug, including Avonex, and 10-15 percent switched from Tysabri, which is infused.

"We continue to believe that switching from Tysabri to Gilenya will be modest," said Thomas Wei, an analyst at Jefferies & Company, in a recent research note

Biogen is working on its own oral MS drug, known as BG-12, and expects to report data from two late-stage trials later this year.

Tysabri was temporarily withdrawn from the market in 2005 after being linked to a potentially deadly brain disorder known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML. Widely considered the most effective drug on the market, it was brought back with stricter safety warnings in 2006.

The company said said it estimates that about at the end of December about 56,600 patients were taking Tysabri worldwide, an increase of 1,700 patients in the fourth quarter and 8,200 in 2010.

As of Jan. 7, the overall incidence of PML was 1.06 per 1,000 patients and the total number of cases associated with the drug is 85. Of those, 16 patients have died, while 69 are still alive with varying degrees of disability.

Biogen's shares rose 2.2 percent to $66.85 in morning trading on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Toni Clarke, editing by Maureen Bavdek, Dave Zimmerman)

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