UPDATE 3-Lundbeck keeps outlook after Q1 tops consensus

* EBIT 1.25 bln DKK, U.S. stock build gives boost

* Repeats outlook of 2010 EBIT 3.0-3.4 bln DKK

* Says braces for impact from healthcare reforms in Europe

* Shares close down 2 pct, underperform European peers

(Writes through, adds conference comments, updates share)

By Anna Ringstrom and Karin Jensen

COPENHAGEN, May 6 (Reuters) - Drugmaker Lundbeck LUN.CO stuck to its 2010 outlook due to fiscal woes in Europe despite an unexpected rise in first-quarter profit from selling more than expected of its cash cow antidepressant, denting its shares.

Lundbeck said on Thursday it would probably be little hit by U.S. healthcare reform. But with cash-strapped Greece saying it would slash medicine prices, Lundbeck is bracing for a spill-over into other European countries as well as price reforms in other crisis-hit countries. [ID:nLDE6440D5]

“If 2010 had been a normal year, and we had come with a quarter like this one, it would obviously have been fair to say, ‘Why don’t you upgrade the year (outlook)?’” Chief Exective Ulf Wiinberg told an analyst conference.

“But a key reason for us is that we don’t really know what will happen,” said Wiinberg, adding he expects more countries to launch reform packages to cope with the economic crisis.

In March, Lundbeck forecast a 2010 operating profit of 3.0 to 3.4 billion crowns, up from 2.86 billion in 2009, and sales of 14.3 to 14.8 billion, up from 13.7 billion. [ID:nLDE6230E5]

“The pressure and the number of austerity measures are increasing,” Chief Financial Officer Anders Gotzsche told the conference. “We have included the insecurity of Greece in our guidance.”


Analysts said lack of good news on products being developed also weighed on Lundbeck's shares, which closed down 2 percent while the Stoxx Europe Healthcare index .SXDP rose.

The company is struggling to find a replacement for its Cipralex, sold as Lexapro in the United States by Forest FRX.N.

There is a risk that revenue from the drug, which accounts for more than half of Lundbeck’s sales, will collapse from generic competition as its patents expire between 2012 and 2014.

Cipralex sales rose 5 percent in the quarter from a year earlier, against a mean forecast for a 3 percent rise in a Reuters poll, on the back of solid growth in Europe where it gained market share significantly. [ID:nLDE6421E9]

Lexapro sales unexpectedly jumped 9 percent, versus a forecast for a 1 percent drop, mainly due to inventory build.

“In the coming quarters, you should expect Lexapro income to be lower,” Wiinberg told the conference. “We still expect 2010 developments to be flattish or low single digit growth.”

Lundbeck, which focuses on brain disorders, will comment after the summer on expected earnings and sales in 2012, the year of the Lexapro patent expiry, he said.

Operating profit rose to 1.25 billion crowns ($218 mln) from 947 million, beating analysts’ average forecast of 920 million.

“The growth we have seen throughout the past year has continued thanks to our main products, Cipralex, Ebixa and Azilect, which are winning market share all over the world,” CFO Gotzsche said in a statement.

Lower research and development costs than expected contributed to growth but those costs will rise later this year, the firm said, to reach 21 percent of sales in 2010.

Lundbeck is and has been involved in anti-depressant Cipralex patent infringement cases in several countries. Last month, a court ruling in Spain opened up for generic competition there. Gotzsche told Reuters he still expects Cipralex to retain a high market share in the country.[ID:nLDE63F1GJ]

Lundbeck's key pipeline product is new-generation antidepressant Lu AA21004, seen as a potential bestseller replacement to Cipralex. Lundbeck and partner Takeda 4502.T will this quarter start four new phase 3 trials with Lu AA21004 after disappointing results from a trial last June. (Editing by David Holmes, Hans Peters and Karen Foster) ($1=5.736 Danish Crown)