UPDATE 2-Actelion hikes dividend, Opsumit approval awaited

Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:21am EST

* FY net profit 303 mln Swiss francs, in line with poll

* 2012 Tracleer sales down 4 pct to 1.5 bln francs

* Sees flat core earnings in 2013

* Lifts dividend 25 pct to 1.00 franc

* Shares up 1.7 pct (Adds CFO comment, shares, analyst)

By Caroline Copley

ZURICH, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Switzerland's Actelion Ltd has raised its dividend by a quarter, giving a positive signal on prospects as it awaits a U.S. regulatory decision on a new drug it hopes will cut its dependency on mainstay Tracleer.

Europe's largest biotech company has seen its outlook brighten over the past year after heart and lung drug Opsumit, its replacement treatment for top-seller Tracleer, beat expectations in a clinical trial, giving a much-needed boost to its drug pipeline.

Yet investors still have to wait until October to see whether U.S. regulators will approve the drug, enabling Actelion to cut its dependence on Tracleer, which makes up around 90 percent of sales.

Chief Financial Officer Andrew Oakley said he expected Actelion will be able to launch Opsumit on the U.S. market this year, but the company declined to give details on pricing.

Actelion, founded by Chief Executive Jean-Paul Clozel in 1997, is cutting costs and focusing its research on its pulmonary arterial hypertension business as it looks to secure growth once Tracleer goes off patent in 2015.

Analysts at brokerage Jefferies said its 25 percent dividend hike to 1.00 franc was "impressive" and its commitment to share buybacks and cost savings showed the group aimed to improve shareholder returns.

Shares in Actelion, which trade at 14.3 times estimated 2013 earnings compared with a peer average of 14.7 times, were up 1.7 percent at 46.24 francs by 0813 GMT.

The group posted a full-year net profit of 303 million Swiss francs ($330 million), compared with a forecast for 303 million in a Reuters poll. It made a 146 million francs loss in 2011.

Full-year Tracleer sales fell 4 percent to 1.5 billion francs. The company has raised prices to try and offset competition from U.S. rival Gilead's Letairis.

Actelion said sales erosion from the first generic versions of Tracleer in Canada has been slower than expected.

It said it expected to maintain core earnings at the same level as 2012. It is banking on Opsumit to help core earnings start growing again from 2014 and has forecast double-digit percentage growth in 2015. ($1 = 0.9193 Swiss franc) (Editing by Dan Lalor and David Holmes)

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