Novo Nordisk's Q1 sales, profit top forecasts, boosted by COVID-19-related stockpiling

Headline results for the first quarter:

Revenue

DKK 33.9 billion ($4.9 billion; forecasts of DKK 31.8 billion)

+16%

Profit

DKK 11.9 billion ($1.7 billion; forecasts of DKK 11.1 billion)

+14%

Note: All changes are versus the prior-year period unless otherwise stated

What the company said:

"COVID-19-related stocking impacted our results; however, we are satisfied with the underlying commercial performance as well as the progression of our pipeline with the approval of Rybelsus in the EU," remarked CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen. Novo Nordisk noted that "estimated sales growth adjusted for the COVID-19-related stocking was around 7%" at constant exchange rates, representing half of growth on this basis.

Other results:        

  • Diabetes segment: DKK 27 billion ($3.9 billion), up 14%
    • Victoza: DKK 5 billion ($725 million), down 13%
    • Ozempic: DKK 4.8 billion ($695 million), up 234%
    • Tresiba: DKK 2.5 billion ($362 million), up 15%
    • Levemir: DKK 2 billion ($289 million), down 22%
  • Saxenda: DKK 1.6 billion ($232 million), up 30%, driven by both North American and international operations
  • Biopharmaceuticals: DKK 5.3 billion ($767 million), up 18%
    • NovoSeven: DKK 2.2 billion ($318 million), up 8%, positively impacted by timing of shipments and tenders, with increased sales in China, EMEA and North America, offset by declining sales in the rest of the world

Looking ahead:

Novo Nordisk continues to expect sales growth this year of between 3% and 6%, on a constant currency basis, with operating profit forecast to grow in the range of 1% to 5% on a constant currency basis. The company explained that the maintained outlook "reflects the negative impacts from COVID-19, largely offset by underlying performance."

Jørgensen said "the number of people getting diabetes is not changing so the patients are there, but it is clear that when healthcare systems are focused on COVID-19 there is less initiation of new patients." The executive suggested that there would probably be a "pool of patients" waiting to get treated for type 2 diabetes after the pandemic, with the guidance assuming that patient flows would normalise in the third and fourth quarter.

Pipeline updates:

Novo Nordisk indicated that "no significant delays" to any clinical studies already close to finalisation are expected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the company said recruitment of new patients in ongoing trials "is negatively impacted," leading to potential delays, while "due to the current strain on the healthcare system, no new clinical trials are initiated."

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