Roche Sees Profit Bump as Drugs and Diagnostics Stay in Demand

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(Bloomberg) -- Roche Holding AG said it still expects a small profit gain this year as demand for its best-selling medicines holds up and the drugmaker works on developing tests for Covid-19 in one of the few industries cushioned from the pandemic.

  • Core earnings per share will grow by a percentage in the low-to mid-single digit range this year, in line with sales, the Swiss company reiterated Wednesday. “Roche’s business has so far proved to be resilient in this difficult environment,” said Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan. Roche said it expects to further raise its dividend this year.

Key Insights

  • Roche’s preference for conservative forecasts may come in handy, allowing it to be one of the few companies to avoid trimming its outlook. Last year, it boosted its outlook three times in the course of the year.
  • CEO Schwan will field questions about the potential for Actemra, an immune suppressor being studied with the U.S. government for some Covid-19 patients, and on an antibody test for the infection that should go on sale next month.
  • While Roche’s diagnostics unit is a leader in developing Covid-19 tests, it’s not clear that the pandemic will ultimately boost the division’s sales as it also suffers from a disruption of routine testing for ailments such as cancer.
  • Beyond the pandemic, Roche’s first-quarter results show new medicines are growing faster than its old guard of blockbuster drugs are losing sales.

Market Reaction

Roche shares are up about 5% so far this year, a rare bright spot in the broader stock market, while the Bloomberg European pharma index is little changed.

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