Roche raises outlook for 2018 as new drugs gain traction

  • Swiss drugmaker Roche lifted its 2018 outlook on Thursday for the second time this year.
  • First-half sales rose 7 percent to 28.1 billion Swiss francs ($28.35 billion).
  • Roche raised its outlook for 2018, and now expects mid-single digit sales growth.
The headquarters of Roche AG in Basel, Switzerland.
Gianluca Colla | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The headquarters of Roche AG in Basel, Switzerland.

Swiss drugmaker Roche lifted its 2018 outlook on Thursday for the second time this year, after first-half sales and profit easily beat analyst expectations on the strength of newer drugs including multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment Ocrevus.

First-half sales rose 7 percent to 28.1 billion Swiss francs ($28.35 billion), compared to the average forecast in a Reuters poll of 27.5 billion francs. Its core operating result rose to 11.2 billion francs, compared to 10.369 billion in the poll.

Speaking to CNBC's Joumanna Bercetche, Roche chief executive Severin Schwan shared his optimism over the earnings beat.

"I'm very pleased about the strong set of numbers, it is entirely driven by the uptick of our new medicine," he said, describing Roche's MS treatment as having been "the best launch in history of Roche ever."

"We're only in the beginning, so I see continued growth from the new medicines, which help us offset and actually overcompensate for the entry of biosimilars, and that has been also the reason why we have raised our guidance for the full year."

Biosimilars are biopharmaceutical drugs designed with active properties similar to previously licensed products, and their entry into the market has led to a substantial erosion in sales of Roche's traditional medicines.

This decline was in line with expectations, Schwan said.

"It is exactly about the new medicines. We're on the one hand replacing our existing franchises with new medicines, in oncology for example, but on other hand we're also spreading out into new therapeutic areas such as MS, hemophilia, or neuroscience. And overall it's about the uptick of the new medicines which really naturally compensate for the entry of biosimilars."

Roche raised its outlook for 2018, and now expects mid-single digit sales growth, at constant exchange rates, up from an expected low single-digit percentage rise. Core earnings per share excluding U.S. tax reform impacts will grow broadly in line with sales, the company said.