November 2, 2018 / 1:00 PM / 10 months ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-AbbVie sees hit to Humira sales from European competition

(Corrects 8th paragraph to show Humira sales expected to approach $6.3 billion in 2018, not 2019.)

By Tamara Mathias

Nov 2 (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker AbbVie Inc on Friday lowered its overseas sales forecast for its top-selling medicine, Humira, as it agreed to larger-than-expected price cuts due to new European competition.

“We’ve seen discounting at ranges from as low as 10 percent to as high as around 80 percent,” Chief Executive Officer Richard Gonzalez said on a conference call with analysts.

“The discounting has been on the higher end of the planning scenarios that we had laid out.”

AbbVie shares were up 2.3 percent at $82.49, shedding some early gains following the company’s Humira comments. They had climbed as much as 5 percent after the company reported higher-than-expected third-quarter earnings.

Mylan NV, Biogen Inc Amgen Inc and Novartis AG have all begun selling biosimilar versions of Humira in Europe, fueling investor concerns as the drugmaker still depends on Humira - the world’s top-selling prescription medicine - for about two-thirds of its revenue.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Alex Arfaei said it was a good quarter that modestly exceeded expectations. “However, the fundamental concerns about AbbVie are about long-term growth prospects. The dividend increase will make AbbVie appear more attractive, but it’s not enough,” Arfaei said in a note.

AbbVie increased its quarterly dividend by about 11 percent.

AbbVie said it expects Humira sales outside the United States to drop around 26 to 27 percent next year, above its previous forecast of 18 to 20 percent. It projected international sales of the drug for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders to approach $6.3 billion in 2018.

Total Humira sales for the quarter rose 9 percent to $5.12 billion. It is not expected to face biosimilar competition in the United States until 2023.

Gonzalez was bullish about AbbVie’s portfolio of cancer treatments and said he was confident of delivering double-digit earnings growth in 2019, despite the Humira biosimilar threat and expected higher spending to launch new drugs.

Results in the quarter were buoyed by higher-than-expected sales of leukemia drug Imbruvica, which AbbVie shares with Johnson & Johnson. It had sales of $972 million, while analysts had been estimating about $885.6 million.

AbbVie also raised its 2018 adjusted earnings forecast to between $7.90 and $7.92 per share from a prior range of $7.76 to $7.86. Analysts had forecast $7.88 per share.

Excluding items, AbbVie earned $2.14 per share, topping analysts’ average forecast by 12 cents, according to data from Refinitiv IBES. (Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New York; editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Bill Berkrot)

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