AbbVie profit beats on Humira demand; cheers Trump tax plan

(Reuters) - AbbVie Inc reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly profit, lifted by demand for its flagship drug, Humira, and called President Donald Trump’s tax plan “encouraging”.

The company’s shares rose as much as 3.8 percent to $67.50 on Thursday.

The Trump administration on Wednesday unveiled a tax reform blueprint that proposed deep tax cuts for businesses and called for bringing back corporate profits being held offshore at a rate well below the current 35 percent.

“We’re incredibly encouraged that there is talk now about possibly allowing repatriation of cash in a tax-efficient manner,” Chief Financial Officer William Chase said on a post-earnings conference call.

AbbVie keeps a majority of its cash overseas, Chase said, but declined to provide more details.

About $2.6 trillion in profits are being held tax-exempt abroad by U.S. multinationals under a rule that says they are only taxable if brought into the United States.

AbbVie on Thursday reported better-than-expected first-quarter sales for Humira, helping allay investor worries over looming competition for the world’s top-selling drug. U.S. sales jumped nearly 23 percent.

“Unfounded fears on U.S. Humira growth were put to bed,” Jefferies analyst Jeffrey Holford said in a client note titled “Humira bears left out in the cold”.

AbbVie, which is trying to block the U.S. launch of a Humira biosimilar developed by Amgen Inc, said in January that it expected biosimilar launches in multiple countries in 2018.

Pricing and volume challenges noted by biopharma companies with immunology drugs do not seem to have impacted Humira to the same degree, which reduces the risk of subsequent revenue misses in 2017, Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges said.

U.S. sales of the drug, which has a list price of $4,441 for a two-pen pack, were driven by volume growth in excess of 12 percent, with the rest from a price increase, company executives said on the call.

Total sales of Humira, used to treat several autoimmune disorders, came in at $4.12 billion, $29 million above consensus estimate, according to Barclays.

The suburban Chicago company’s cancer drug, Imbruvica, raked in first-quarter sales of $551 million, beating the Street estimate, while its hepatitis C treatment, Viekira Pak, brought in a lower-than-expected $263 million.

Net revenue rose 9.7 percent to $6.54 billion, just ahead of the average estimate of $6.48 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Excluding items, the company earned $1.28 per share, beating the average analyst estimate by 2 cents.

Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Sriraj Kalluvila