* Sticking to 2009 profit forecast
* 2008 results in line with Krka’s forecast
* Western Europe sales biggest in 08
(Changes dateline, adds CEO and analyst quotes, details)
By Manca Ulcar
DOLENJSKE TOPLICE, Slovenia, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Slovenian generic drugs producer Krka (KRKG.LJ) said on Thursday 2008 group net profit rose by 20 percent to around 160 million euros ($208 million), in line with the company’s forecast.
Chief executive Joze Colaric added Krka was sticking to its 2009 profit and sales forecast despite the global economic and financial crisis.
The 2008 net profit increase was mainly due to higher sales which rose by 22 percent to 950 million euros. Krka said exact profit figures will be released at the end of February.
It said sales rose in all regions while the biggest sales rise was achieved in Western Europe with some 39 percent.
Krka, which exports 89 percent of its production and operates in 70 countries, said in November group net profit was expected to rise marginally to 161 million euros in 2009 while sales are seen at 1.06 billion.
“We are sticking to what we have forecast but are also following the situation and are careful... For the time being we do not feel the crisis, but it is not realistic to expect that it will not touch us,” Colaric told a news conference.
“We expect that conditions in 2009 will be significantly different... but we like it that the situation is difficult for all, also for our competitors. That is a chance for us to strengthen,” he added.
Analysts welcomed the fact that Krka met 2008 forecast and said its 2009 forecast was conservative enough for the company to be able to meet it even amid the global financial crisis.
“The 2008 result is positive as many other companies failed to meet their forecasts due to the crisis. I expect Krka could manage to meet its 2009 forecast, too, as the forecast is very conservative,” Darko Kovacic, an analyst at Raiffeisen Bank, told Reuters.
Shares of Krka, which is Slovenia’s largest listed company with market capitalisation of 1.8 billion euros, rose by 1.49 percent to 52.8 euros on Thursday while the blue-chip SBI index .SBI gained 1.66 percent.
Kovacic said the results will have little impact on Krka’s share price as the market was mainly moving in line with global sentiment. ($1=.7706 euros) (Reporting by Manca Ulcar and Marja Novak, Editing by David Cowell and Mike Nesbit)