Amgen's fourth-quarter earnings, revenue rise on strong sales

Amgen announced Thursday that its fourth-quarter earnings increased 20 percent compared to the year-ago quarter due in part to strong sales of anaemia drug Aranesp. Quarterly sales of Aranesp increased 24 percent to $873 million on rising demand for the treatment.

Fourth-quarter earnings were $824 million, higher than the $689 million the company recorded in the year-prior period. Revenue for the quarter increased 12 percent to $3.27 billion almost in line with analysts' expectations of expectations of about $3.3 billion. For the full-year, earnings increased 55 percent to $3.67 billion and revenue rose 18 percent to $12.4 billion compared to 2004.

Epogen's sales fell 10 percent to $626 million compared to the year-prior quarter, but Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer noted that Epogen's sales should increase between 4 percent and 6 percent in 2006. "There's nothing fundamental going on with Epogen. Just small adjustments," he noted, as reported in SmartMoney. Combined quarterly sales of haematology treatments Neulasta and Neupogen rose 19 percent to $928 million, while quarterly sales for Enbrel, which Amgen co-markets with Wyeth, grew 19 percent to $674 million over the year-ago period.

"Amgen has been gaining market share slowly but steadily from Johnson & Johnson using techniques that have been effective. They have been terrific in maximising return on their franchises and they're fierce competitors," commented JP Morgan analyst Avik Roy, Bloomberg reports. "Still, challenges for them are the pipeline," Roy added.

Some analysts expressed disappointment that Amgen did not reported interim results for an ongoing trial involving experimental colorectal cancer treatment panitumumab, although one analyst noted that the company "does not want to roll out the data before presenting it at a large conference," as reported in MarketWatch. Many analysts believe the treatment may be key to Amgen's long-term growth, along with experimental osteoporosis drug denosumab. Additionally, the drugmaker noted that it plans to increase R&D spending by 30 percent to 40 percent in 2006, which Sharer said is a sign of the company's confidence in its pipeline.

Separately, Amgen signed a patent-sharing licensing agreement with Genentech, which would grant Amgen access to Genentech's "Cabilly" patents. The agreement concerns "multiple patents relating to the manufacture and use of antibodies and related technology," Amgen commented in a statement. Financial details were not disclosed.

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