Sanofi-Aventis Lifts Outlook on Vaccine Sales

Fri, 10/30/2009 - 4:48am
GREG KELLER AP Business Writer PARIS (AP) — Sanofi-Aventis SA reported Friday a 6 percent rise in third-quarter profit and said strong sales of its vaccine against swine flu will drive earnings higher than expected for the full year. France's largest pharmaceutical company expects to make $500 million in sales of the swine flu vaccine in the fourth quarter. That forecast led Sanofi-Aventis to raise its outlook for full-year earnings per share growth to 11 percent, up from 10 percent growth seen previously. Sanofi-Aventis, headquartered in Paris, said net profit rose 6 percent to euro1.4 billion ($2.1 billion) in the third quarter, on revenue that grew 8 percent to euro7.4 billion. Sanofi Pasteur, the company's vaccines division, is churning out more than 75 million doses of swine flu vaccine and 50 million doses of the winter flu variety at two plants in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania. In a statement, Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher said Sanofi-Aventis has "mobilized substantial resources on the production of A/H1N1 vaccines." Last week, Switzerland's Novartis AG said it anticipates sales of between $400 million and $700 million for the shots in the fourth quarter. Demand for Sanofi-Aventis' widely prescribed anti-clotting drug Lovenox and diabetes treatment Lantus set a strong pace for overall pharmaceutical sales in the quarter. That performance drove a 4 percent increase in Sanofi-Aventis' pharmaceuticals revenue over the first nine months of year, to euro19.6 billion. The world's third-largest pharmaceutical firm is a top maker of vaccines for the flu and other diseases, as well as its popular anticlotting medicines, its breast and prostate cancer drug Taxotere, and insomnia treatment Ambien. In late April, Sanofi-Aventis said it would narrow its research focus to fewer disease areas, something top competitors including Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. already have done. Sanofi-Aventis' third quarter performance was on par with rivals Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which reported strong profit and higher sales for the period. Since taking the helm at Sanofi-Aventis at the start of the year, Viehbacher has led a program to help the company take on generic competition and replace aging blockbuster drugs with new treatments. By 2013, Sanofi-Aventis aims to be less dependent on the classical patent-protected blockbusters such as Plavix and Lovenox, as the company leans more heavily on five markets where it sees the most growth: vaccines, diabetes products, emerging markets, over the counter medicines, Japan, and new treatments. Sanofi-Aventis shares have risen around 13 percent so far this year, in line with Paris' blue-chip CAC-40 index. In early trading Friday the stock rose 1 percent to euro51.37.

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