* Q4 adjusted EPS $0.94 vs forecast $0.95
* Q4 sales up 33 pct to $3.8 bln, operating expenses jump
* Sees 2010 adjusted EPS $4.40-$4.60, rev of $16 bln
* Tel Aviv share ends down 1.1 pct, Nasdaq share off 0.8 pct
* Raises dividend by 17 pct (Adds 2010 outlook, more analysts comments, share close)
By Tova Cohen and Steven Scheer
TEL AVIV, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries TEVA.O, the world’s largest generic drugmaker, posted a rise in quarterly net profit that missed analysts’ forecast by 1 cent on higher expenses and maintained its 2010 earnings outlook.
Chief Financial Officer Eyal Desheh said 2010 would be a very strong year for Teva, largely due to new product launches.
“There are a lot of growth drivers that will appear on the scene in 2010,” Desheh told Reuters after a news conference on Tuesday.
Teva maintained its 2010 earnings forecast of $4.40 to $4.60 per share excluding items. President and Chief Executive Shlomo Yanai said revenue this year would be around $16 billion, adding that this was sensitive to exchange volatility.
Analysts are expecting EPS of $4.54 on revenue of $16.04 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“Heading into what we believe will be an exceptionally strong 2010, we remain encouraged by Teva’s overall sales trends,” JP Morgan analyst Chris Schott said in clients’ note.
In the fourth quarter Teva’s (TEVA.TA) diluted EPS increased to 94 cents from 80 cents as sales at Israel’s biggest company and the ninth largest on Nasdaq grew 33 percent to a record $3.8 billion. [ID:nBw156314a]
Analysts forecast EPS of 95 cents on sales of $3.8 billion.
Gilad Alper, an analyst at brokerage Excellence Nessuah, said the real story in the quarter was higher than expected operating expenses.
“At any rate, and assuming fourth quarter 2009 operating expenses (OPEX) do not mark the beginning of a worrying trend, investors will remain focused on possible acquisitions, and with an expected 35 percent increase in 2010 earnings per share, the market will need more than an elevated OPEX in one quarter to get spooked,” Alper said.
Teva attributed the rise in expenses to higher royalty payments related to Copaxone — the world’s top MS treatment — and other products including the relaunch of its generic version of AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) asthma medicine Pulmicort Respules.
Sanford Bernstein analyst Aaron Gal said the Pulmicort royalty payment was higher than he had modelled.
Desheh noted that Teva in 2010 will save hundreds of millions of dollars from halting royalty payments of 25 percent on U.S. sales of Copaxone to Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA). Royalties will cease in the second quarter, he said.
“In our opinion investors are waiting for the next acquisition and this report represents a checkmark on another good year,” IBI Investment House analyst Natali Gotlieb said.
Teva would not comment on specific deals but Desheh said acquisitions remain an integral part of Teva’s strategy particularly outside of the United States. Yanai said Europe was one of Teva’s key strategy targets for the next five years.
Teva bid earlier this month to buy German peer Ratiopharm, according to people familiar with the process, though Teva has not confirmed this.
Teva’s shares closed down 1.1 percent at 219.7 shekels in Tel Aviv. Its shares were down 0.8 percent at $58.37 in early Nasdaq trading.
Teva raised its dividend by 17 percent to 18.7 cents a share. (Editing by David Cowell)
$1 = 3.75 shekels