Roche posts 2018 sales beat with strong growth from its new medicines

  • Group sales climbed to 56.8 billion Swiss francs with net income increasing by 24 percent, which included the benefits from the U.S. tax overhaul in early 2018.
  • The firm said it expects revenue to grow in the low-to mid-single digit range this year and predicted that it would further increase its dividend for shareholders.

Swiss health care giant Roche reported a 7 percent rise in 2018 sales on Tuesday, highlighting strong demand for its new range of medicines.

Group sales climbed to 56.8 billion Swiss francs ($57.2 billion) with net income increasing by 24 percent, which included the benefits from the U.S. tax overhaul in early 2018. This beat an estimate in a Reuters poll which had predicted sales of 56.4 billion Swiss francs.

The firm said it expects revenue to grow in the low-to mid-single digit range this year and predicted that it would further increase its dividend for shareholders. Core operating profit rose by 9 percent on a constant exchange rate basis.

Roche CEO Severin Schwan told CNBC the results were "very strong" and showed "continued strong momentum" for the company. Shares climbed 1.8 percent in early deals on Thursday.

"In 2018, Roche achieved very good growth in both divisions. I am particularly pleased with the very strong demand for our new medicines, delivering significant benefit for patients fighting serious diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis and haemophilia," he added in a statement.

A logo of the Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche.
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images
A logo of the Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche.

'Most successful launch'

Its diagnostics division saw revenue grow 7 percent during 2018 with its pharma unit growing by the same amount. It stated that key growth drivers were the new multiple sclerosis medicine Ocrevus and cancer medicines Perjeta, Tecentriq, Alecensa as well as the new haemophilia medicine Hemlibra.

Schwan said new medicines accounted for 90 percent of the firm's sales growth in 2018 and called the Ocrevus launch the "most successful" in the history of Roche.

The U.S., which has seen a greater scrutiny on drug pricing in recent years, is a key market for the pharma side of Roche. Schwan told CNBC's Julianna Tatelbaum that for that market "it's all about the value you provide patients."

"And with our research-driven, innovation-driven strategy I think we are well positioned because we can bring this real benefit to patients. And my experience is, in particular in the U.S., the society is also prepared to reward this kind of innovation. So I am confident that the United States will remain a very attractive market," he said.