(Updates with CFO’s comment in third, fourth paragraphs.)
Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Actelion Ltd., the Swiss maker of the Tracleer lung treatment, aims for profit this year to be unchanged as the economic crisis puts pressure on drug prices and it loses market share to Gilead Sciences Inc.
Product sales will decline in the low-to mid-single-digit percentage range this year, the Allschwil, Switzerland-based company said in a statement today. Actelion set a goal for core earnings, defined as product sales minus cash operating expenses, to be unchanged from 437.5 million Swiss francs ($476.6 million) in 2011 in local currencies.
The pricing environment will be “a little bit worse” this year, Chief Financial Officer Andrew Oakley said in a phone interview today. Tracleer will also continue to lose ground to Gilead’s Letairis after U.S. regulators last year allowed the company to remove a reference to the risk of liver damage from the drug’s label.
“It’s not falling off a cliff, but it’s just slowly declining,” Oakley said. “We still hold overall more than 80 percent share globally.”
Actelion will pay an annual dividend of 80 centimes a share, unchanged from 2010.
The company’s shares fell 2.3 percent to 34.63 francs at 9:01 a.m. in Zurich. The stock, including reinvested dividends, lost 35 percent in the 12 months through yesterday, the worst performance on the Bloomberg Europe Pharmaceuticals Index of 18 companies. The index returned 18 percent.
Actelion is betting on results from a late-stage trial of macitentan, its successor to Tracleer, to fuel sales growth when that drug loses patent protection in 2015. The company said it expects to announce the results in the second quarter.
“I am as confident as you can be at this stage” that the results of the trial will be positive, Jean-Paul Clozel, Actelion’s chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview today. “I’m very hopeful that if we show macitentan is a very good drug, doctors will prescribe it.”
Earnings before interest and taxes totaled 12.2 million Swiss francs last year, compared with 457.3 million francs in 2010, the company said today. Actelion was expected to report a 9.8 million-franc loss, according to the average of eight analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Actelion posted a net loss for the year of 146.3 million francs, or 1.23 francs per share, wider than the average analyst estimate of a 109.2 million franc loss, or 88 centimes per share.
’A Lot Worse’
The loss was because of a provision of 340.6 million francs for a lawsuit Actelion lost to Asahi Kasei Corp. and a further 43 million francs for “doubtful debts” including from southern European health-care providers. Actelion said it filed an appeal against the lawsuit in December.
“The situation in southern Europe has got a lot worse in the second half of the year,” Oakley said.
Sales of Tracleer fell 7 percent to 1.52 billion francs, representing 85 percent of full-year revenue of 1.8 billion francs. Sales of Gilead’s Letairis rose 22 percent to $293 million last year, the Foster City, California-based company said Feb. 2.
Tracleer, macitentan and Letairis are all designed to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, a condition in which the arteries that move blood from the heart to the lungs narrow, forcing the heart to work harder and causing elevated blood pressure. Over time the heart muscle can weaken and fail, causing death. The three drugs block a chemical called endothelin that causes blood vessels to constrict.
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