Celgene Corp's (CELG.O) quarterly earnings rose 14 percent, beating expectations on strong sales of its Revlimid cancer treatment and lower costs, but investors were more focused on ongoing studies of its promising new medicines and wider uses for Revlimid.
The higher-than-expected profit was due in part to lower costs of goods and a smaller number of outstanding company shares, analysts said.
"Overall, we are pleased to see the company continuing to deliver operating leverage and bottom-line beats with increases in earnings guidance," Sanford Bernstein analyst Geoffrey Porges said in a research note.
The company, which narrowly raised its full-year earnings view, said on Thursday it earned $424 million, or 97 cents per share, in the third quarter. That compared with $373 million, or 81 cents per share, in the year-earlier period.
Excluding special items, Celgene earned $1.29 per share, exceeding analysts' average expectations by 2 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company now sees 2012 adjusted earnings of $4.85 to $4.90 per share, up from its prior view of $4.80 to $4.85. However, it slightly lowered the top end of its revenue forecast range to $5.55 billion from $5.60 billion.
In a conference call with analysts, Celgene said its roster of experimental drugs has the potential to drive future growth. They include pomalidomide, for multiple myeloma patients who have relapsed or failed to respond to other treatments, and apremilast for psoriasis and arthritis associated with the skin condition.
"Apremilast has the potential to transform Celgene," Chief Executive Bob Hugin said.
Mara Goldstein, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald, said she believes Wall Street is underestimating the potential of the company's experimental drugs to propel earnings growth as Revlimid matures and posts weaker sales gains.
"That's the most bullish I've heard the company on apremilast," Goldstein said.
The company said it aims to seek U.S. marketing approval for the drug in the first quarter of 2013 for psoriatic arthritis, and in the second half of that year for treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis.
Company revenue in the third quarter rose 14 percent to $1.42 billion, topping Wall Street expectations of $1.41 billion.
Sales of Revlimid, Celgene's biggest product and profit driver, jumped 18 percent to $970 million, in line with Wall Street forecasts. The growth was fueled by earlier and longer patient use of the drug for multiple myeloma, and introduction of the medicine in new regions.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells - a type of white blood cell responsible for producing antibodies - that affects the bone marrow. The cancer eventually interferes with production of normal blood cells. The National Cancer Institute estimated that 21,700 people in the United States will be diagnosed with myeloma in 2012.
Sales of Abraxane, a treatment for metastatic breast cancer, fell 6 percent to $106 million. Celgene said the decline was partly due to a surge in U.S. demand for the drug in 2011 as a result of shortages of standard chemotherapy agent paclitaxel.
Celgene, which had been criticized for paying $2.9 billion in 2010 for Abraxis Bioscience in order to obtain Abraxane, is hoping to broaden its use and is testing the drug in other types of cancer, such as melanoma and pancreatic cancer.
U.S. regulators recently approved use of Abraxane as a first-line treatment of the most common form of lung cancer.
The drug significantly delayed disease progression in advanced melanoma patients in a late stage clinical trial and was showing a trend toward improving overall survival, according to preliminary data released by the company.
Goldstein said she expected peak annual Abraxane sales of about $750 million to $800 million with its currently approved uses, and possibly well over $1 billion if it proves effective against other cancers.
Sales of Vidaza, used to treat a group of blood disorders known as myelodysplastic syndromes, rose 15 percent to $220 million. Sales of Thalomid, the company's older treatment for multiple myeloma, fell 10 percent to $75 million.
The company boosted its 2012 earnings forecast, excluding special items, to between $4.85 and $4.90 per share, from a previous view of $4.80 to $4.85.
Celgene said it expects full-year Revlimid sales to rise about 18 percent to between $3.75 and $3.8 billion. It previously forecast $3.75 billion to $3.85 billion.
Shares of Celgene were up 22 cents, or 0.3 percent at $74.28 in midday trading on the Nasdaq.
(Additional reporting By Bill Berkrot in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, John Wallace, Tim Dobbyn and Gunna Dickson)