ZURICH Europe's biggest biotech company Actelion said it would only return to earnings growth in 2014, later than analysts expect, as new medicines and cost cuts would take time to offset falling sales of a key heart and lung drug.
The Swiss group, which received a boost last week from positive trial results of a new generation heart and lung disease treatment, said on Tuesday it expected stable core earnings in 2013 in local currencies, followed by a return to growth in 2014 and double digit percentage growth in 2015.
Actelion has already forecast flat core earnings in 2012 as it braces for a decline in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) drug Tracleer, which accounts for around 90 percent of group sales, but which goes off patent in 2015 and faces growing competition from Gilead's rival treatment Letairis.
"Current consensus and we also were expecting growth as soon as 2013 and beyond of about 10-12 percent. Hence we expect expectations to be cut but by about 10 percent following today's announcement," said Vontobel analyst Andrew Weiss.
Shares in Actelion, which jumped 18 percent after the data on new PAH drug macitentan were released last week, were down 4.1 percent at 38.35 Swiss francs by 0745 GMT. [ID:nL5E8FU0GW]
The decline was exacerbated by the stock going ex-dividend, meaning buyers will now not qualify for a 0.8 franc payout.
Actelion said its priority was to expand its leadership in the market for treating PAH, with its pipeline in immunomodulation and antibiotics a second focus.
It also flagged more cost cuts, but did not give details. It is making an investor presentation in London starting at 0800 GMT.
ZKB analyst Sibylle Bischofberger said the strategy was in line with the firm's past course and welcomed the fact it was giving a clear medium-term outlook.
"The new long-term outlook shows the confidence that Actelion can radiate after the good results for macitentan. Actelion should now return to calmer waters," she said.
Last year, Actelion became embroiled in a boardroom battle with activist investor Elliott Advisors, a New York-based hedge fund, which urged the company to put itself up for sale.
Actelion, founded by former Roche scientists Jean-Paul Clozel and his wife Martine in 1997, saw off that challenge but analysts believe the company could still be a takeover target once macitentan's potential is clear.
(Editing by David Cowell and Mark Potter)