Roche sales decline more than expected as COVID products slide

  • Q3 sales down 6% to 17.74 bln Swiss francs
  • Increase in COVID cases has not boosted demand for tests, drugs
  • CEO: demand in China recovering but not yet at pre-COVID level

Oct 18 (Reuters) - Roche's (ROG.S) quarterly sales declined 6% as a slump in COVID-19 treatments and diagnostic testing outweighed gains from haemophilia treatment Hemlibra and multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus.

Third-quarter revenue slipped to 14.74 billion Swiss francs ($14.84 billion), below market expectations of about 15.5 billion francs.

"The third quarter of 2022 was particularly challenging due to base effects, as the demand for COVID-19 medicines and tests was exceptionally high in the same quarter of 2021," the Swiss company said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Despite an increasing incidence rate for COVID-19, actually, we don't see an increase in the demand for COVID-19-related products," Chief Executive Severin Schwan told journalists in a call, adding this was valid for both tests as well as drugs Ronapreve and Actemra.

Its bestseller Ocrevus gained 16% in sales to 1.52 billion francs during the quarter, while Hemlibra jumped 23% to 952 million francs, both excluding the effect of currency swings.

However, analysts at brokerage Jefferies said sales gains in Hemlibra and cancer immunotherapy Tecentriq fell short of market expectations.

The logo of Swiss drugmaker Roche is seen at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

The company reaffirmed its guidance for full-year revenue to be flat or grow by a "low-single digit" percentage, when excluding foreign exchange effects.

It also reiterated that the percentage gain in core earnings per share would be in the "low- to mid-single digit" range.

Demand in China was recovering as people started seeing their doctors again after harsh lockdown measures but was not yet back to pre-pandemic levels, Roche's CEO said.

Roche repeated that keenly awaited trial data on experimental Alzheimer's drug gantenerumab was due to be published at the end of November.

Market expectations have picked up after rivals Eisai (4523.T) and Biogen (BIIB.O) last month reported positive results on a drug that targets the same protein type, but Schwan declined to comment on any implications for gantenerumab.

($1 = 0.9932 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Ludwig Burger, Editing by Miranda Murray, Kirsten Donovan

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