October 31, 2013 / 12:21 PM / 6 years ago

Novo's diabetes drug sales, outlook lags forecasts

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO) missed forecasts for third quarter profit and sales and gave a smaller than expected growth outlook for next year, capped by a weakening dollar and slower growth of some of its best-selling drugs.

The world’s biggest insulin producer, which has focused on diabetes during a worldwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes tied to over-eating and lack of exercise, said third quarter sales of modern insulins rose to 9.39 billion Danish crowns, missing the average 9.74 billion forecast in a Reuters poll.

The group’s operating profit for the third quarter rose to 7.99 billion Danish crowns ($1.48 billion), compared with an average forecast for 8.19 billion crowns in the poll of analysts.

“It is particularly the diabetes sales which are weak in the third quarter,” said Sydbank analyst Soren Hansen.

Sales of diabetes drug Victoza rose about 14 percent to 2.85 billion Danish crowns, also lagging forecasts, hurt by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency’s investigations into whether Victoza and similar rival drugs may cause pancreatic cancer.

“At a first glance that looks critical because Victoza is one of the primary growth drivers for Novo,” Jyske Bank analyst Frank Andersen said.

The sale of NovoRapid, a modern insulin and another of Novo’s best selling drugs, rose 8 percent, less than expected Andersen said.

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Novo’s shares fell 4.7 percent to 941 Danish crowns per share at 1115 GMT, against a 0.7 percent fall in the Copenhagen stock exchange’s benchmark index .OMXC20CAP.

The company said it expects high single-digit percentage operating profit and sales growth next year and kept its outlook for 2013 unchanged.

“The first disappointing element is the result and the next is 2014 guidance,” said Andersen.

Consensus expectations had also been for a small upgrade of underlying growth guidance for 2013 on strong demand for diabetes treatments. Novo currently holds a 27 percent market share of the global diabetes, the company said on Thursday.

Novo said it would split its shares to improve liquidity and bring price levels down, especially the American Depositary Receipts.

The price of Novo Nordisk’s shares on the New York stock exchange last traded at $181.1 per share (NVO.N).

The trading unit of Novo Nordisk B shares listed on the Nasdaq OMX Copenhagen exchange will be changed from 1 Danish crown to 0.20 crowns, it said.

Novo’s shares have risen 3.5 percent since the start of the year, outperforming a modest 0.2 percent increase in the European Healthcare Index .SXDP.

Early this year the company took a knock when U.S. authorities refused approval of long-acting insulin hope Tresiba, but in August it raised its full-year results forecast for a third time in six months on the back of strong modern insulin and Victoza sales.

Novo is facing fierce competition to launch new and better treatments in the diabetes and insulin market, up against rivals such as Sanofi SA (SASY.PA) and Eli Lilly & Co (LLY.N), in addition to much smaller generic producers.

One such race is between Novo, with a market value of about $74 billion, and Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc (ORMP.O), with a market value of $50 million and headquartered in Jerusalem, vying to be the first to market a long desired insulin pill.

($1 = 5.4161 Danish crowns)

Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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