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Roche earnings fall short of forecasts

Drugmaker Roche on Thursday reported full-year earnings and a dividend slightly below forecasts and said it expected sales to grow low- to mid-single digit in 2016.

Shares in the group fell 2.7 percent in early trade.

Severin Schwan, chief executive officer Roche Holding.
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Severin Schwan, chief executive officer Roche Holding.

Core earnings came in at 13.49 Swiss francs per share for 2015, against forecasts of 14.1 Swiss francs per share and down 6 percent. The group said net income declined in Swiss franc terms due to a "major negative currency impact".

Core earnings were expected to grow ahead of sales this year. The group also said it expected to further increase its dividend from 8.10 Swiss francs per share in 2015.

CEO Severin Schwan said he was "very pleased" with the results, adding the group made significant progress in its product pipeline. It has the potential to launch eight new drugs over the next three years.

Group sales increased by 5 percent, driven primarily by pharmaceutical sales in the U.S. - 47 percent of pharmaceutical sales are derived from the United States - and by strong demand for immunodiagnostic products.

Turning to medicines which are coming off patent, resulting a reduced revenue streams, Schwan said in oncology the group saw promising data for cancer therapy but it is also entering new fields such as multiple sclerosis and asthma.

"Overall I think the prospects are very good to replace the upcoming patent expiries," Schwan told CNBC.

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In the pharmaceuticals division, sales rose 5 percent, driven by the oncology portfolio and led by medicines for breast cancer and blockbuster cancer drug Avastin.

Schwan said potential smaller acquisition targets still looked expensive, and the group would still only consider smaller bolt-on acquisitions.

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