U.S. Markets

Swiss drugmaker Actelion forecasts earnings growth in 2016

A general view shows Swiss biotech group Actelion Headquarters in Allschwil near Basel February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Actelion ATLN.VX, Europe's largest biotechnology company, forecast that its core earnings would grow in 2016, defying concerns about rising generic competition in its main pulmonary arterial hypertension drug business.

This year, Actelion expects a small percentage increase in core earnings at constant exchange rates. While that is under the 14 percent increase in 2015, it exceeds analyst forecasts for a potential drop in profit.

Chief Executive Officer Jean-Paul Clozel expects his two newest pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) drugs, Uptravi and Opsumit, to see accelerating sales this year. Both will help offset falling revenue from Tracleer, Actelion’s mainstay drug for the last decade that lost patent protection in November.

“Peak sales will take many years, but there will be very significant income from Uptravi this year,” Clozel said in a telephone interview. “And I can tell you, the launch is doing extremely well.”

“The 2016 outlook is much better than we feared,” Jefferies analyst Peter Welford said in a note to clients, adding that a delay in the arrival of generic rivals is supporting Actelion’s Tracleer business for the time being.

Core earnings rose to 814 million Swiss francs ($827.24 million), the company said in a statement, compared to analyst forecasts of 813 million francs.

Product sales rose 4 percent to 2.042 billion francs, compared with analyst forecasts for 2.044 billion francs.

Actelion proposed a dividend of 1.5 Swiss francs per share, more than the 1.39 francs estimated by analysts.

Reporting by John Miller; editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Louise Heavens