Coronavirus clouds Novartis's 2020 outlook

Coronavirus clouds Novartis's 2020 outlook

Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said on Tuesday that the "extremely disruptive environment" posed by the coronavirus pandemic had dimmed the Swiss drugmaker's 2020 revenue outlook, after reporting a drop in quarterly sales and profit.

Logo is seen at new factory of Novartis in Stein
FILE PHOTO: The company's logo is seen at the new cell and gene therapy factory of Swiss drugmaker Novartis in Stein, Switzerland, November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH: Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said on Tuesday that the "extremely disruptive environment" posed by the coronavirus pandemic had dimmed the Swiss drugmaker's 2020 revenue outlook, after reporting a drop in quarterly sales and profit.

Net income in the three months through June fell 4per cent to US$1.9 billion, compared with US$2.1 billion in 2019. Sales fell 1per cent to US$11.35 billion, from US$11.8 billion. Analysts at Zuercher Kantonalbank said the sales decline was 7per cent weaker than the bank had expected.

The Basel-based company trimmed its 2020 sales outlook, saying it now expects sales to grow in the mid-single digit percentage range, down from its previous expectation for a mid- to high-single-digit percentage increase.

Novartis sees core operating income rising by low double-digit percentages, at the top of its earlier forecast's range, as pandemic-related travel and conference attendance cuts help reduce costs.

Second-quarter sales and profit both fell, as drugs for eye and skin diseases were impacted. Moreover, Novartis's medicines that must be given in the hospital saw declines as patients postponed treatment due to lockdowns and travel restrictions.

"In addition to opthalmology and dermatology, therapies in the second quarter that required hospital stays did see an impact across the portfolio," Narasimhan said on a call, citing radioligand therapy Lutathera for certain cancers.

Lutathera second-quarter sales fell to US$105 million, from US$109 million a year earlier.

The pandemic also took the shine off Cosentyx, Novartis's top selling psoriasis and arthritis drug, which saw sales rise 12per cent to US$944 million, less than half the 2019 growth rate.

For eye drug Lucentis, sales fell a quarter to US$401 million.

"We are seeing now a rebound back in terms of patient visits to physicians, both in ophthalmology and dermatology," Narasimhan said. "So we're optimistic you'll then see that underlying performance of Cosentyx come through in the second half."

The drugmaker's generics business Sandoz saw sales drop 9per cent to US$2.16 billion, as the first-quarter surge in buying by hospitals due to the pandemic ended.

(Reporting by John Miller, editing by John Revill and Louise Heavens)

Source: Reuters

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