Lilly Upbeat But Lowers 2007 Forecast

Eli Lilly reiterated its earnings forecast for this year, but said next year's profits will be below analyst forecasts.

"We have nine products that we launched within the last four years that are in their growth phase," said Chief Executive Sidney Taurel on CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"We are going to add a number of new indications and line extensions for each of these products and our older products, and we expect to launch on average one product per year until the end of the decade," Taurel said. "So the top-line growth will be driving the growth I'm talking about," he said.

Productivity savings also will create the resources that will be needed to invest in further growth, he said.

Lilly meets with analysts today to more fully discuss its pipeline of experimental products, the most important of which is prasugrel--a drug to prevent blood clots that has shown advantages in clinical trials over Bristol-Myers Squibb's widely used Plavix.

Eli Lilly expects its 2006 earnings to rise 8% to 12%, but projected disappointing profit growth for 2007 even though its revenues will grow at a faster pace next year.

This year's sales will be at the low end of the company's 7% to 9% range. Analysts had been expecting sales of 6%, on average.

The Indianapolis drugmaker, which makes schizophrenia treatment Zyprexa and anti-impotence drug Cialis, said it continues to expect a 2006 profit of between $3.10 to $3.20 per
share, excluding special items.

It projected 2007 earnings of $3.25 to $3.35 per share. Analysts on average expected $3.40.

From 2008 to 2010, it said it expects per-share earnings growth in the "high single to low double digits" percentage range.

During the CNBC interview, Taurel said he had no intention to boost the company's bid for Icos, a biotech company it is acquiring.

Earlier this week, the nation's leading proxy-advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services recommended Icos shareholders vote against Lilly's proposed purchase, saying Lilly's offer of $32 a share, or a total of about $2.1 billion, is too low.

The report criticized the timing of the deal, which was announced two days before the unexpected positive news that the profit had quadrupled for the company's Cialis venture.

In the interview, Taurel disagreed with this claim.

"It is a fine offer," Taurel said. "It is a full price and it has been approved buy the boards of both companies."

Some shareholders, including HealthCor Management, which owns a 5% stake, have argued Icos is worth at least $40 a share.

Shareholders will get a chance to voice their opinions at a Dec. 19 shareholder meeting at Icos headquarters in Bothell, Wash.

Icos shares are currently trading above Lilly's offer price.

Separately, Taurel declined to say whether Lilly would consider making a bid for Amylin Pharmaceuticals , its partner on a Byetta, a diabetes drug (Pharma's Market: Diabetes and Big Pharma).

"We're very happy with our partnership with Amylin," Taurel said. "We plan to continue that relationship."

Lilly said it has seen the monthly new prescription volume for Byetta rise 30% over the last six months. The drug now ranks fourth in new prescriptions weekly among branded diabetes products for patients with Type 2 diabetes.