By Bill Berkrot
Jan 29 Biogen Idec Inc said on
Wednesday its new, high-profile oral multiple sclerosis drug
Tecfidera had sales of $398 million in the fourth quarter,
easily exceeding estimates for a third successive quarter and
keeping it on track to top $1 billion in its first year on the
Some of those sales were due to U.S. inventory stocking
ahead of a 10 percent Tecfidera price increase in December.
Biogen said underlying patient demand for the drug represented
about $348 million of the U.S. sales, still ahead of analysts'
consensus expectations of about $335 million.
Biogen provided forecasts for 2014 that were likely to be
viewed as a mixed bag, with revenue growth projections ahead of
Wall Street expectations but an earnings outlook that fell short
of the current analysts' view.
The company forecast revenue growth of about 22 percent to
25 percent and earnings of $11 to $11.20 per share, excluding
items. Analysts, on average, were looking for revenue growth of
about 20 percent and earnings of $11.63 per share, according to
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"The guidance was very robust on the top line," said Cowen
and Co analyst Eric Schmidt. "A conservative management team
like Biogen starting the year off with guidance that's
significantly above consensus, that's a strong signal."
The earnings forecast shortfall was likely due to $200
million in the research and development budget that the company
has earmarked for future business development, Schmidt said.
"The EPS guidance appears conservative in light of revenue
growth expectations," Sanford Bernstein analyst Geoffrey Porges
said in a note. "Historically, Biogen has been able to beat
initial guidance by 7 percent in the top line and 12 percent in
the bottom line."
Investors gave Biogen management the benefit of the doubt,
sending shares up nearly 2 percent on a down day for the broader
markets. Biogen was one of the best performers of 2013, with the
stock soaring more than 90 percent.
Investor focus has been squarely on the performance of
Tecfidera, which has become the top-selling oral MS treatment in
the United States despite being third to market. The company
expects European approval in the coming days or weeks, which
would be another major catalyst for sales.
Biogen said it was set to begin selling the drug in Germany
as soon as European Union approval comes through with subsequent
launches on a country-by-country basis as reimbursement is
secured. The drug is already approved in Australia and Canada.
Biogen said more than 6,000 doctors have prescribed
Tecfidera so far, and that more than 30 percent of new patients
in the fourth quarter had not been on prior therapies, such as
Biogen's injectable MS drugs Avonex and Tysabri.
Biogen said its fourth-quarter profit jumped 57 percent,
fueled by Tecfidera. The net profit rose to $457.3 million, or
$1.92 per share, from $292.1 million, or $1.23 per share, a year
earlier. Excluding special items, Biogen earned $2.34 per share,
topping analysts' average expectations by 6 cents, according to
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Total revenue rose 39 percent to $1.97 billion, edging past
the average analyst estimate of $1.93 billion.
Avonex sales were flat at $751 million, but were about 3
percent ahead of analysts' expectations.
Tysabri sales of $427 million fell well short of Wall Street
estimates of about $470 million, in part due to an Italian
reimbursement dispute that was expected to be settled in the
quarter but carried over to 2014.
Biogen said Tysabri discontinuation rates improved in the
quarter, but that it remained under pressure in Europe due to
competition from oral medicines sold by Novartis and
The company said it continued to expect approvals this year
for hemophilia drugs Eloctate and Alprolix, putting Biogen into
that market for the first time. It sees a mid-year launch of
Plegridy, a new interferon drug for relapsing MS.
Biogen Idec shares rose $5.79 to $311.44 in afternoon
trading on Nasdaq.