By Deena Beasley
Feb 4 Gilead Sciences Inc, which
recently began selling a new hepatitis C drug seen reaching
multibillion-dollar sales, posted a better-than-expected
quarterly profit on Tuesday as sales of its flagship HIV drugs
beat Wall Street estimates.
Fourth-quarter net income rose 4 percent to $791.4 million
from $762.5 million a year earlier. Adjusting for one-time
items, the California-based company earned 55 cents a share,
which beat the average analyst estimate of 50 cents a share,
according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 20 percent to $3.12 billion, ahead of the
average Wall Street forecast of $2.85 billion.
Sales of hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, which was approved by
U.S. regulators in early December, totaled $139.4 million for
Gilead declined to estimate 2014 sales of the drug but said
demand is strong. "We've got a well-tolerated, highly effective
cure," said Kevin Young, head of commercial operations at
Gilead. "This is transformational medicine."
RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee said he expects 2014
Sovaldi sales of $6 billion.
"It looks like the prescription trend we've all been
watching was spot on for the revenue trajectory, which means
that there's going to be off-the-charts numbers this year," said
Sanford Bernstein analyst Geoffrey Porges. "And behind all that
the HIV business is chugging along nicely."
Hepatitis C affects about 3.2 million Americans, killing
more than 15,000 each year, mostly from illnesses such as
cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The often-undiagnosed virus is transmitted through
contaminated blood. While infection rates have dropped since the
early 1990s - due in part to the introduction of blood and organ
screening - many older adults remain at risk, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has called for
baby boomers to be routinely tested for the virus.
Gilead excluded sales of Sovaldi and other hepatitis C drugs
from its forecast for 2014 product sales, which it projected
would increase between 6 percent and 8 percent from 2013 to
total between $11.3 billion and $11.5 billion.
Analysts have forecast the company's full-year 2014 revenue
at $14.66 billion.
"It's hard to imagine that they won't exceed $15 billion or
$16 billion with Sovaldi," Porges said. "Revenue is going to be
up 40 to 50 percent."
Gilead's fourth-quarter sales of HIV drug Atripla rose 2
percent to $933.6 million, while sales of an older product,
Truvada, fell 2 percent to $832.7 million. Sales of the
company's newest HIV drug, Stribild, rose 409 percent to $203.8
Shares of Gilead, which rose 4 percent to close at $82.02 in
regular Nasdaq trading, were down 27 cents at $81.75 after
hours. Over the past 12 months, the stock has nearly doubled.