By Bill Berkrot
Jan 28 (Reuters) - Amgen Inc on Tuesday reported a quarterly profit that beat Wall Street forecasts, as it gained full control of its blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel and saw solid growth in sales of newer products.
Amgen, the world’s biggest biotechnology company, also announced another positive result from a late-stage study of its high-profile experimental cholesterol drug, evolocumab.
The company issued an initial 2014 earnings forecast range with a midpoint below Wall Street consensus estimates, which could be viewed by investors as either conservative or disappointing. Amgen often adjusts its full-year forecasts over the course of the year.
The company said it expects 2014 adjusted earnings of $7.90 to $8.20 per share and revenue of $19.2 billion to $19.6 billion. Analysts on average are looking for $8.18 per share and revenue of $19.57 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“The forward guidance was a bit mixed. History shows that the company is typically conservative at the beginning of the year and tries to raise guidance throughout the year,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee.
Excluding items, Amgen said it had fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.82 per share, topping analysts’ average expectations of $1.68 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Amgen said its fourth-quarter net profit rose to $1.02 billion, or $1.33 per share, from $788 million, or $1.01 per share, a year ago.
Sales of most of Amgen’s main products met or exceeded Wall Street expectations for the quarter. The results included business from Onyx Pharmaceuticals, which Amgen acquired for nearly $10 billion last year.
“It was a strong quarter to end the year and it was really due to core products, such as Epogen,” Yee said.
Revenue for the quarter rose 13 percent to $5.01 billion, exceeding analysts’ forecasts of $4.81 billion.
Epogen, Amgen’s older anemia drug, had a surprisingly strong quarter with sales up 10 percent at $525 million, easily beating Wall Street estimates of about $484 million.
Enbrel sales rose 3 percent to $1.2 billion, slightly above analyst expectations. Beginning in November, Pfizer Inc’s share of Enbrel sales reverted back to Amgen and became a 12 percent royalty payment. Amgen said it expects the change to add $800 million to operating income in 2014.
Amgen said the fourth Phase III clinical trial of its experimental cholesterol fighter evolocumab from a highly promising new class of injectable medicines succeeded in significantly lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol, adding to a wealth of positive results for the medicine that would put the company into heart care for the first time.
The company plans this year to begin seeking approvals for the drug intended for people who cannot tolerate widely used statins or who are unable to get their LDL levels low enough despite using high potency statins, such as AstraZeneca’s Crestor.
Amgen expects a steady flow of important clinical data in 2014, including results from a key study of the new multiple myeloma drug Kyprolis that could enable its use earlier in the disease, which should significantly boost sales.
Kyprolis, the centerpiece of the Onyx acquisition, had sales of $73 million, up from $65 million in the previous quarter.
“We believe Kyprolis has an important role to play as a backbone in treating multiple myeloma,” Amgen Chief Executive Officer Robert Bradway told analysts on a conference call.
Xgeva, for preventing fractures after cancer has spread to the bones, saw sales grow 33 percent to $286 million, while sales of the related osteoporosis drug Prolia grew 53 percent from a year ago to $236 million. The drugs also showed nice growth from the third quarter, when sales were $261 million and $178 million, respectively.
Combined worldwide sales of the white blood cell boosters Neupogen and Neulasta rose 8 percent to $1.3 billion.
Amgen shares fell just under 1 percent to $119.57 in extended trading from a Nasdaq close at $120.70.