AbbVie posts Q4 loss on aborted Shire deal, as Humira sales rise in double digits

AbbVie said Friday that it posted a loss of $810 million for the fourth quarter, down from a profit of $1.1 billion in the year-ago period, mainly as the result of charges related to its aborted deal to acquire Shire. Sales in the quarter increased 6.7 percent to $5.5 billion, slightly outpacing analyst expectations of $5.4 billion, with revenue from Humira climbing 10.6 percent to $3.4 billion.

AbbVie said that sales growth of Humira was fuelled by a 15.8 percent increase in the drug's US revenue to over $1.9 billion. The company cautioned that sales of the drug were diminished by 3.8 percentage points due to unfavourable currency exchange rates.

"AbbVie delivered exceptional performance in 2014 with sales and earnings well above our original projections for the year," commented CEO Richard A. Gonzalez. The drugmaker noted that quarterly sales of the hepatitis C therapy Viekira Pak, which was approved by the FDA in December last year, reached $48 million.

AbbVie indicated that sales of Viekira Pak, which was given preferred status by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts last month over Gilead Sciences' Harvoni, could reach $3 billion by the end of this year, with further growth in 2016. Analyst had predicted $3.1 billion for 2015. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: This means war! Impact of AbbVie's HCV deal with Express Scripts goes well beyond Gilead.

Alex Arfaei of BMO Capital Markets, who now expects sales of Viekira Pak to be between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion this year, remarked "the hepatitis C guidance is disappointing," adding that "in 2016 it's going to get even worse, because Merck is going to launch."

For the full year, AbbVie recorded about $20 billion in revenue, up from $18.8 billion in the prior year. Meanwhile, net profit for 2014 declined 57 percent year-over-year to $1.8 billion.

The drugmaker confirmed its 2015 guidance, with earnings per share of between $4.25 and $4.45. Analysts expect per-share earnings of $4.37. Gonzalez commented "we returned to growth in 2014, a year ahead of schedule, and we expect to continue building on that momentum in 2015 with another year of strong performance."

To read more Top Story articles, click here.