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Amgen profit tops expectations; Prolia on track

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Amgen Inc AMGN.O reported better-than-expected second-quarter profit on Thursday and the world's largest biotechnology company said the launch of its new osteoporosis drug Prolia was progressing as planned.

Sales of some of its most important products fell short of Wall Street estimates, with the anemia drug Aranesp declining more than anticipated, and the company slightly lowered its full-year revenue forecast.

But shares barely moved as investors were already looking ahead to focus on Prolia, which was approved on June 1 in the United States days after European approval. It is widely expected to be Amgen’s most important future growth driver.

“The launches are progressing both in Europe and the United States as we had planned. The initial feedback from physicians has been positive,” Chief Executive Kevin Sharer told analysts and investors on a conference call.

The company is hoping for an additional U.S. approval for the drug, also known as denosumab, as soon as November for reducing fractures and other skeletal problems in patients whose cancer has spread to the bone.

Amgen expects Prolia approvals in Canada and Switzerland in the current quarter, and said the drug was “off to a strong start in Germany,” where it has received government reimbursement.

“In short order we will be pursuing Prolia launches around the globe,” said research chief Roger Perlmutter.

Excluding items, the company had second-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.38 per share, topping analysts’ average expectations by 8 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Amgen posted a net profit of $1.20 billion, or $1.25 per share, compared with a profit of $1.27 billion, or $1.25 per share, a year earlier.

“This was every bit the mixed quarter that people expected it to be, and with the quarter behind us people will look forward to better times at Amgen, specifically the data on denosumab expected later this year,” said Cowen and Co analyst Eric Schmidt.

Revenue for the quarter was $3.8 billion, just ahead of Wall Street estimates of $3.74 billion.

But the company said due to the impact of a weaker euro it now expects full-year revenue to come in slightly below $15.1 billion, which had been the bottom of its prior forecast range.

Amgen continues to expect 2010 adjusted earnings at the low end of its forecast range of $5.05 to $5.25 per share.

Sales of Aranesp, which have been under assault due to safety concerns and reimbursement restrictions, fell 13 percent to $603 million, well short of analysts’ expectations of $640.9 million. But sales of the older red blood cell booster Epogen rose 3 percent to $657 million, exceeding Wall Street estimates of $653.4 million.

The company said most safety and use restriction issues for its anemia franchise “have been addressed or resolved,” adding that it has a lot more clarity for the business going forward.

Sales of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel also were a bit disappointing, falling 2 percent to $877 million, just shy of estimates for $879.5 million. Enbrel is a medicine that has often exceeded expectations in past quarters.

Combined worldwide sales of the white blood cell boosters Neupogen and Neulasta rose 1 percent to $1.17 billion, while Wall Street was looking for $1.19 billion.

“Most of the products fell a little short of expectations,” said Schmidt, noting “pressures out of Europe both on foreign exchange and on pricing.”

“But they protected you on the bottom line with some nice cost savings and they will continue to do so for the remainder of the year,” he said.

After fluctuating slightly in extended trading, Amgen settled at $53.37, matching their Nasdaq close.

Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Gary Hill

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