Sanofi-Aventis Q2 net profit up 5 percent on higher sales of key drugs

Sanofi-Aventis Q2 profit up 5 percent

PARIS — Pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis reported Wednesday a 5 percent increase in second-quarter net profit, due to stronger sales of its diabetes drug Lantus and blood thinners Lovenox and Plavix, which it predicted would boost full-year earnings.

Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis said it is also making progress on a plan unveiled earlier this year to make up for its thinning pipeline of new drugs and counter competition from generic drug makers over the next five years.

Net profit rose to euro1.06 billion in the April to June period, up from euro1.01 billion a year earlier. Sales grew 11 percent to euro7.44 billion in the period.

Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher said the second-quarter performance meant the company could increase its forecast for earnings per share growth this year to around 10 percent, compared to its earlier forecast of at least 7 percent.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Viehbacher said it was “clearly a great quarter.”

Since taking over Sanofi-Aventis at the start of the year, Viehbacher has led a program aimed at arming the company to take on generic competition and replace aging blockbuster drugs with new treatments.

By 2013, Sanofi-Aventis “will be less dependent on the classical patent protected blockbusters,” Viehbacher said, as the company leans more heavily on five markets where it sees the most growth: vaccines, diabetes products, emerging markets, over the counter medicines, Japan, and new treatments.

“If we simply keep the same level of growth as now, we can double those five growth platforms by 2013,” Viehbacher said.

Sanofi-Aventis’ pharmaceutical sales rose 7 percent to euro6.73 billion in the second quarter. The division’s growth was led by Sanofi-Aventis’ diabetes treatment Lantus, sales of which rose 26 percent to euro792 million in the quarter.

Earlier this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was reviewing data on the safety of Lantus, a synthetic insulin. The move comes after a recent, widely publicized study raised the possibility the once-a-day insulin slightly increases risk of cancer.

It is the company’s third-best-selling drug and a key growth driver, with revenue up 28 percent to nearly $3.5 billion last year.

In its statement, Sanofi-Aventis said it will carry out further research in this area at the request of the European drug regulator. It said there have been no significant changes in Lantus’ prescription trends so far.

Sanofi-Aventis’s second quarter adjusted net profit, the company’s prefered earnings yardstick, rose 29 percent to euro2.27 billion.

The performance matched that of rival Bristol-Myers-Squibb Co., which last week reported 29 percent earnings growth for the quarter due to higher sales of several key products and significant cost-cutting.

Sales of Sanofi-Aventis’ blockbusters Lovenox and Taxotere also posted solid growth in the quarter. Lovenox, a blood thinner, saw sales rise 13 percent to euro780 million in the quarter. Cancer treatment Taxotere saw sales grow 11 percent to euro584 million.

The company said it aims to keep sales in 2013 at the same level as the euro27.6 billion it made last year, before including new sales made through acquisitions. It also aims to cut costs by euro2 billion over the same period in order to maintain net profit in 2013 at the same level as the euro7.2 billion made last year.

Sanofi-Aventis shares fell 0.7 percent to euro46.65 in early Paris trading.

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