* Q1 EPS $1.22 vs $1.21 forecast
* Q1 revenue $5 bln vs $5.1 bln forecast
* Teva open to M&A opportunities, including larger deals
* Shares up 2.5 pct in New York
(Releads with CEO quotes from conference call)
By Tova Cohen
TEL AVIV, May 1 The new chief executive of Teva
Pharmaceutical Industries said the company will
examine acquisition opportunities as it seeks to refocus on its
generics business, expand in emerging markets and invest in the
Teva, the world's largest generic drugmaker, has faced
increased competition in recent years and its growth has slowed.
The company had grown rapidly on the heels of several
significant acquisitions but it had scaled back on major
purchases in the last few years.
Israel's largest company in February brought in turnaround
specialist Erez Vigodman, who is tasked with implementing cost
cuts and improving the generics business, where profits have
waned as competition grows and opportunities fade.
"Teva must regain focus on its generic business ... with the
target to improve our profitability by 2017 by 600 basis
points," Vigodman told a conference call of analysts on Thursday
after the company reported first quarter earnings per share that
beat analysts' consensus estimate by one cent.
"While the focus remains on fixing the foundation and
driving organic growth, we are aware of the opportunities around
us, including potential larger transactions," he said.
Teva shares were up 2.5 percent to $50.07 in early
New York trade.
Vigodman said Teva was on track to reduce gross expenses by
$1 billion by the end of 2014 and $2 billion by 2017. This would
lead to $500 million of net savings by 2017 and Teva is hoping
to be even more ambitious on this target, he said.
Plans to close or divest 11 plants are already underway and
16 additional plants are under evaluation.
Teva is also "fully aware" of the opportunities in the field
of biosimilars - generic versions of complex biological
medicines to treat conditions like cancer and kidney disease,
the CEO said.
"We will be considering inorganic opportunities in order to
be positioned better," Vigodman said, adding Teva will also move
to expand in emerging markets in the next two years.
U.S. GENERIC SALES UP
Teva earned $1.22 per share excluding one-time items in the
first quarter, up from $1.12 a year earlier.
Revenue rose 2 percent to $5.0 billion, helped by a 17
percent rise in U.S. generics revenue but falling short of
analysts' average estimate of $5.1 billion, according to Thomson
Revenue in Europe fell 4 percent, partly due to a mild
winter in central and eastern Europe.
The company maintained its full year 2014 earnings and
Global sales of its best-selling multiple sclerosis drug
Copaxone, which accounts for about 20 percent of sales and 50
percent of profit, edged up 1 percent to $1.07 billion. The
injectable drug faces competition from oral treatments as well
as cheaper generics in the coming years.
To help it remain competitive, Teva launched a 40 mg version
of Copaxone that has to be injected only three times a week
instead of daily and it is quickly moving patients over. As of
April 18, this new version of Copaxone had a 10.5 percent U.S.
market share in terms of total prescriptions. U.S. market share
for the two Copaxone products was 33.5 percent.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Teva's appeal
in a Copaxone patent fight in the fall and a ruling is expected
in 2015. In the meantime the top court denied Teva's request to
stay a lower court ruling that favoured the developers of
generic versions of Copaxone.
If a generic version is launched in the meantime, any sales
would be considered "at risk", Vigodman said.
"Any company launching at risk faces significant potential
exposure in the billion of dollars," he said.
Teva declared a quarterly dividend of 1.21 shekels (34.7
cents) a share, unchanged from the fourth quarter.
(Additional reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Elaine