Actelion raises profit forecast as cost cuts kick in

ZURICH Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:51am EDT

ZURICH (Reuters) - Actelion (ATLN.VX), the Swiss drugmaker which relies on sales of its treatment for a rare lung disease, raised its full-year profit forecast on Thursday on cost-savings and better-than-expected sales of its mainstay product.

Europe's largest biotech company said it expected core earnings to cross into the double-digit percentage range for 2013, up from a previous guidance of stable core earnings, after cost savings kicked in quicker than expected.

The company has cut spending as it seeks to maximize profitability while developing new treatments to replace its top-seller Tracleer, a treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), which makes up about 87 percent of sales.

Investors are waiting to see if U.S. regulators will approve its new heart and lung drug Opsumit in October, allowing Actelion to cut its dependence on Tracleer.

Due to growth being brought forward into this year, Actelion forecast at least stable core earnings in 2014 and growth in at least the single-digit range in 2015. It had previously forecast single-digit growth in 2014 and double digit growth in 2015.

Chief Financial Officer Oakley said there was room for upside to that guidance, if sales of Opsumit were better than hoped.

Shares in Actelion, the best performer on the Swiss blue-chip index .SSMI this year, were up 1 percent at 60.80 Swiss francs by 0757 GMT having gained more than 3 percent earlier in the session, sending the stock to its highest level since October 2009.

The shares trade at 15.1 times estimated earnings over the next 12 months, in line with its peers.

Sales of Tracleer shrugged off price pressure in Europe and competition in the United States to rise 2 percent to 766.9 million Swiss francs ($812.5 million) in the first half, driven by strong volume growth in Japan.

Net profit for the period was 199.5 million francs.

Actelion cut operating expenses by 4 percent in the first half to 553.3 million francs. However, the company expects costs to increase later in the year due to the expected market launch of Opsumit and as it starts late-stage trials for other drugs.

The company said it had put a late-stage trial on hold for its drug ponesimod in patients with the skin diseases psoriasis while it evaluates an early-stage study with a follow-on compound that could offer better tolerability. ($1 = 0.9439 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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