AbbVie Beats Analysts Estimates as Sales of Humira Rise

Apr 25, 2014 4:24 pm ET

(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.

Confident Position

“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.