Biogen focuses on drugs in pipeline after strong quarter

Thursday, Jan 28, 2016

Biogen Inc eased investor nerves on Wednesday and its shares surged more than 9 percent after the company reported better-than-expected sales of its most important multiple sclerosis drug, Tecfidera, and issued a 2016 outlook in line with Wall Street estimates.

Biogen's quarterly results should help put a difficult 2015 in the rear view mirror and allow for a renewed focus on potentially important drugs the U.S. biotech company is developing.

"Investors were quite nervous going into guidance," RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee said.

"Things aren't getting worse. There's some signs of light at end of the tunnel. There is a lot of huge pipeline opportunities to come," Yee said.

Analysts had been concerned Biogen would provide a forecast below expectations after cautious comments by management at the recent JP Morgan Healthcare conference. That followed a 2015 in which the company slashed Tecfidera's growth forecast midyear and later announced a cost-saving restructuring.

On Wednesday, Biogen said U.S. Tecfidera demand had stabilized, while sales were growing in Europe, allowing for a renewed focus on the company's promising stable of drugs in development.

Biogen is enrolling patients in two late stage trials of aducanumab, the Alzheimer's disease drug that generated excitement last year with early data that demonstrated reduction in amyloid plaque in the brain and some cognitive improvement.

Data on other drugs expected this year, including two other Alzheimer's treatments earlier in development, could boost shares if positive, analysts said.

Biogen is expecting data this year on a closely watched medicine known as anti-Lingo that could become the first to restore nerve damage caused by multiple sclerosis. Based on the Phase II data, Biogen will decide whether to proceed to a pivotal registration trial.

It is also moving into Phase III trials with partner Ionis Pharmaceuticals, formerly Isis, of nusinersen for spinal muscular atrophy, a leading genetic cause of infant mortality.

Fourth-quarter Tecfidera sales of $993 million, helped by about $30 million in inventory stocking, topped Wall Street estimates of about $930 million.

Biogen executives told analysts on a call that the company hoped its ongoing direct-to-consumer Tecfidera television campaign will reaccelerate U.S. growth, but it will be difficult to gauge the impact until later this year.

Biogen forecast 2016 adjusted earnings of $18.30 to $18.60 per share and revenue of $11.1 billion to $11.3 billion.

Excluding special items, such as restructuring costs, Biogen earned $4.50 per share, handily beating Wall Street expectations of $4.08.

Biogen shares rose $24.31, or 9.4 percent, to $284.18.

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