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Roche posts 7 percent rise in Q3 drug sales

JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press
Tuesday, 16 Oct 2012 | 5:06 AM ET

GENEVA -- Powered by demand for its cancer drugs, Swiss drugmaker Roche on Tuesday reported a 7 percent increase in sales of its pharmaceutical products for the first nine months of 2012.

The world's biggest producer of cancer-fighting drugs said its pharmaceutical division's sales over the three quarters rose to 26.2 billion Swiss francs ($28.08 billion), from 24.4 billion francs in the same time period last year.

The company, based in Basel, Switzerland, had solid growth in its top three cancer drugs _ MabThera/Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin _ which it said accounted for 52 percent of the division's sales.

Roche benefits from having strong sellers whose patents will not expire soon, unlike many of its major competitors seeking the next blockbuster.

Shares in Roche Holding AG rose 0.38 percent to close at 184.60 francs ($198.82) on the Zurich exchange Tuesday.

In its financial statement, Roche said the strong growth in the third quarter was helped by the U.S. launch of its new breast cancer medicine, Perjeta, which also has been approved in Switzerland but not yet in the European Union. Its sales were also bolstered by the weakening of the Swiss franc against the dollar and yen.

CEO Severin Schwan said the drug development pipeline has continued to feed into sales, and that the company is on target to meet its financial goals this year.

In a conference call with reporters, he declined to answer questions about whether Roche might reconsider its failed hostile bid of about $6.5 billion to acquire U.S. diagnostics firm Illumina Inc.

Roche had announced in January an offer to buy the California-based company's shares, then raised that offer after Illumina's board rejected the bid. It let the last offer expire on April 20.

The Swiss drugmaker confirmed its outlook for sales growth would be in the low to middle single-digit range at constant exchange rates this year.

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