North Chicago-based AbbVie Inc. reported fourth-quarter profit that met analysts' estimates on increased revenue from the company's top drug, Humira for rheumatoid arthritis.
Earnings excluding one-time items were 82 cents a share, matching the average of nine estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The company, which split from parent Abbott Laboratories last year, forecast 2014 profit of $3 to $3.10 a share, AbbVie said today in a statement. Analysts had estimated $3.13.
Fourth-quarter revenue of $5.11 billion was boosted by a 13 percent increase in Humira sales. Humira helps protect AbbVie from the patent losses that have hurt companies such as Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer Inc. because the biotechnology medicine won't face the same competition from inexpensive copycats as traditional drugs. AbbVie also said it may have its hepatitis C combination therapy on the market this year.
"Two story lines dominate -- - the strength of Humira revenues in the here and now, and pipeline developments to fill potential shortfalls going forward," said Tony Butler, an analyst with Barclays Plc who has an equal-weight rating on the stock. This year there will be major results for experimental medicines in hepatitis C and cancer, Butler said in a note to clients.
AbbVie shares gained 2.2 percent to $49.38 at 9:44 a.m. New York time.
The company is racing against Gilead Sciences Inc. to be the first to market with a multi-drug hepatitis C treatment that doesn't need the use of older medicines and has at least a 90 percent chance of clearing the virus.
AbbVie said it plans to submit the drug for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in the second quarter. while Foster City, California-based Gilead has said it can file in the first quarter.
AbbVie completed the final-stage studies of the three-drug treatment, testing the regimen with and without ribavirin, an older medicine used to boost the virus-clearing effect. In six trials of different treatments and patient types, the regimen cleared all signs of the virus in 90 percent to 100 percent of patients, the company said.
AbbVie generates almost 60 percent of its revenue from Humira, which had $9.27 billion in sales in 2012.
That has buoyed the company's stock since it become an independent company at the start of 2013. AbbVie shares gained 31 percent in the 12 months through yesterday.
Net income declined 27 percent to $1.13 billion, or 70 cents a share, from $1.54 billion, or 98 cents, a year earlier, the company said.