UPDATE 2-Valeant raises profit forecast, hunts for deals
* First-quarter net loss $0.09/share vs $0.04 year earlier * Total revenue rises 25 percent * Sees 2013 cash EPS $5.55-$5.85 vs prior fcast $5.45-$5.75 By Rod Nickel and Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay May 2 (Reuters) - Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc , Canada's biggest publicly traded drugmaker, raised its full-year adjusted profit forecast on Thursday and said it would seek acquisitions in markets avoided by its stiffest competition. The fast-growing drugmaker said it now expected an adjusted 2013 profit, which it calls cash earnings, of between $5.55 and $5.85 per share, up from its previous forecast of $5.45 to $5.75. Valeant is pursuing deals with strong cash flow in high-growth areas where big pharmaceutical companies have little presence, Chief Executive Michael Pearson said, ruling out western Europe, Japan, China and India. "I don't think small players can win in these markets when all the big pharma is highly focused on (them)," Pearson said on a conference call. "What we're not interested in is being a niche player in these markets." The company, whose products include antidepressant drug Wellbutrin and over-the-counter remedy Cold-FX, said it would not comment on market speculation, which has focused in the past week on merger talks with U.S. generic drugmaker Actavis Inc . Actavis said it is in routine discussions that include large-scale mergers and acquisitions and product transactions, but would not comment on specific activities. The company earned $405.2 million, or $1.30 per share, on an adjusted basis in the first quarter, a rise of 12 percent from $360.3 million in the same quarter last year due to higher product sales. Total revenue jumped 25 percent to $1.07 billion. Product sales rose 38 percent, driven by robust growth in Poland, Russia, Brazil, Southeast Asia and South Africa. The adjusted profit per share beat the average analyst estimate of $1.25, but revenue fell slightly short of expectations for $1.09 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Investors are likely to take encouragement from the quarterly results and earnings guidance increase, given concerns that include generic competition from Mylan Inc for Valeant's herpes ointment Zovirax, said analyst Chris Schott of JPMorgan. Valeant said last month that the competition for Zovirax would weaken its cash earnings per share for the year by 30-40 cents. Valeant said its net loss, using generally accepted accounting principles, widened to $27.5 million, or 9 cents per share, from $12.9 million, or 4 cents per share, a year earlier as expenses increased 4 percent, mainly due to the integration of Medicis Pharmaceuticals Corp. Valeant has been on the acquisition trail since its 2010 takeover by Biovail Corp, which assumed the Valeant name. It has favored segments where patients often pay out of pocket, such as opthalmology and dermatology - a strategy that cuts its exposure to cost-sensitive insurers. A proposed merger of Valeant and Actavis, the third-largest global generic drugmaker, was put on hold recently after the companies failed to agree to the terms of a deal, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters last week. Actavis, formerly known as Watson Pharmaceuticals, on Thursday reported an adjusted quarterly profit that beat market estimates, helped by several new products, and the company raised its earnings forecast for the full year. Valeant on Thursday reiterated its revenue forecast of $4.4 billion to $4.8 billion for the year. Valeant shares closed at C$74.28 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
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