(Updates with closing share price in fourth paragraph.)
April 25 (Bloomberg) -- AbbVie Inc., the drugmaker split from parent Abbott Laboratories last year, reported first- quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates as sales of its biggest drug rose 18 percent.
Profit of 71 cents a share beat by 3 cents the average of 11 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Total sales were $4.56 billion, the North Chicago, Illinois-based company said in a statement today, above the $4.33 billion analysts predicted.
AbbVie’s business is reliant on Humira, the company’s biggest product. The rheumatoid arthritis injection sold $2.64 billion in the first quarter and made up 57 percent of its revenue last year. To diversify, it’s developing experimental drugs for hepatitis C and cancer, as well as potential successors to Humira.
AbbVie shares fell less than 1 percent to $49.14 at the close in New York. The stock has gained 11 percent in the last 12 months.
The drugmaker is positioning its hepatitis C combination to be a competitor to Gilead Sciences Inc.’s pill. The medicines do away with side-effect heavy injections and are projected to be blockbusters. Gilead sold $2.27 billion of its pill in the first quarter.
AbbVie’s products have had lower expectations and are projected by analysts to garner a smaller share of the hepatitis C market.
“We feel pretty good about our position, and we feel it’s playing out pretty much as we thought it would play out,” Chief Executive Officer Richard Gonzalez said on a conference call.
Asked about how he would price the drug compared with Gilead’s, Gonzalez said the drugmaker wouldn’t plan to come in at a much lower price. “That’s not our strategy going forward,” he said. Instead, the company will talk up the drug’s cure rates in hard-to-treat patients. “As it relates to pricing, as we have said before, if I look at the product profile that we have and I look at the mix of patients that are going to be treated first, we have a product profile that stands up quite nicely in the marketplace.”
Net income rose 1.2 percent to $980 million, or 61 cents a share, from $968 million, or 60 cents, a year earlier, the company said.
Humira’s revenue increased percent in the U.S. because of price increases and new indications, the company said.