Novo Nordisk profit beats expectations as stockpiling boosts sales

A high speed production line of insulin is pictured at the factory of Novo Nordisk, a global healthcare company, in Chartres.
Jean-Francois Monier | AFP | Getty Images

Denmark's Novo Nordisk posted a better-than-expected quarterly operating profit on Wednesday and kept its full-year outlook, as customers stocking up during the coronavirus pandemic boosted sales of its diabetes medicines.

Novo Nordisk joined U.S. rival Eli Lilly and other large pharmaceuticals companies in sticking to or even raising full-year forecasts as lockdowns to combat the spread of the virus lead to stockpiling of medicines and other essentials.

"Sales growth was impacted by COVID-19-related stocking as increased patient prescription trends and wholesaler inventory levels were seen in particular in the US and EMEA in March 2020," the world's top maker of diabetes drugs said in a statement.

Sales jumped 16% to 33.9 billion Danish crowns ($4.92 billion) in the first quarter, beating the 31.5 billion crowns forecasted by analysts, but growth would have been 7% when adjusted for the COVID-19-related stocking, Novo said.

Operating profit came in at 16.3 billion crowns, compared to an average 14.2 billion crowns expected by analysts.

The company said it still expects sales to grow between 3% and 6% and operating profit to rise 1%-5% this year, both measured in local currencies, despite uncertainties stemming from the outbreak.

"The current COVID-19 pandemic causes uncertainty to the outlook regarding patient flow and societal impacts such as the unemployment rate in the US which is impacting healthcare insurance coverage," it said.