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Novo Nordisk's Second-Quarter Earnings More than Doubles

Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, the world's largest producer of insulin, said Friday that second-quarter net profit more than doubled and raised its guidance for the full year. Its shares rose more than 4%.

Novo Nordisk said net profit, boosted by a divestment gain, came to 3.65 billion Danish kroner (490.5 million euros; $672.07 million) from 1.74 billion kroner a year earlier, sharply beating the average analyst forecast of 2.74 billion kroner (368 million euros; $503 million).

Sales rose to 10.56 billion kroner (1.42 billion euros; $1.94 billion) from 9.73 billion kroner, in line with analyst forecasts of 10.55 billion kroner (1.42 billion euros; $1.94 billion).

Novo Nordisk completed the sale of its 27% stake in cancer diagnostic firm Dako in May, giving it a gain of 1.4 billion kroner (188 million euros; $257 million).

The company raised its guidance for earnings before interest and taxes to growth of around 10% from 6% to 8% previously, citing a sustainable improvement in gross margin.

The gross margin for the second quarter stood at 77.7% compared with 76.8% a year ago.

It also raised its sales growth forecast to 11% to 14% measured in local currencies and 7% to 10% in Danish kroner. It had earlier forecast sales to grow by less than 10% in Danish kroner and more than 10% in local currencies.

Novo Nordisk shares rose 4.4% to 613 kroner (82.4 euros; $113), outperforming a broadly higher Nordic market. The stock has risen close to 60% in the last 12 months on the back of strong earnings and the release of promising late-stage data for its potential blockbuster diabetes product Liraglutide.

Indications of a strong U.S. insulin market in the second-quarter reports from competitors Eli Lilly and Sanofi-Aventis in the past week helped boost the share price further.

Sydbank analyst Rune Majlund Dahl said the gross margin was better than expected and the upgrade to full-year guidance positive.

"The diabetes business performed better than expected and it is positive to see Novo Nordisk continues to take market share in the U.S.," he said.

Novo Nordisk has about 23,600 employees in 79 countries, and markets its products in 179 countries.