January 5, 2011 / 9:30 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-UCB expects to exceed guidance for 2010

* Sees higher impairment charges

* Full year results due March 2

* Previous guidance seen as conservative

* Shares up 0.5 percent

(Adds share price reaction, analyst comment)

BRUSSELS, Jan 5 (Reuters) - UCB (UCB.BR) expects to beat its guidance for 2010, driven by better than expected epilepsy drug sales, the Belgian pharmaceutical group said on Wednesday.

UCB had previously said it expected revenues of at least 3 billion euros ($4 billion), earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and ammortisation of about 700 million and core earnings per share of 1.76 euros.

It said impairment charges will also be higher, reaching 240-250 million euros, up from 126 million in 2009.

“While non-cash, one-time write offs and impairment charges impact our bottom line, we are confident to show a positive net result for 2010,” finance director Detlef Thielgen said.

UCB shares were up 0.5 percent at 0922 GMT, adding to a strong performance in the first trading days of 2011, which saw the stock gain 8 percent.

Analysts had said UCB’s guidance, confirmed at the time of its third-quarter results in October, was conservative.

“The company had shown good results in the first half but kept a very conservative guidance for various reasons. It seemed conservative to me back then and this has now become clear,” KBC analyst Jan de Kerpel said.

Like larger peers AstraZeneca (AZN.L), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and Pfizer (PFE.N), UCB is faced with the loss of patent protection and cuts to government healthcare budgets.

It is pinning its hopes on three new drugs — Cimzia to fight rheumatoid arthritis and bowel disorder Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease patch Neupro, and epilesy treatment Vimpat — after hayfever drug Zyrtec and epilepsy blockbuster Keppra lost patent protection.

UCB said sales of Keppra exceeded its expectations.

“They already felt strong competition for Keppra in the U.S., where its patent expired last year,” De Kerpel said, adding there was no generic competition in Europe at present, as patents there only expired in September.

“Companies try to make the most of the period just before the patent expires. You see that often because they know it will be more difficult to remain the same level of sales afterwards,” De Kerpel said.

UCB will unveil 2010 results on March 2. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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