Roche forecasts return to growth in 2024 as it overcomes drop in COVID sales By Reuters

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© Reuters. The headquarters of Swiss drugmaker Roche are seen in Basel, Switzerland January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

By Maggie Fick and Ludwig Burger

LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Roche said on Thursday that 2024 would see a return to sales growth as it is overcoming a slump in demand for its COVID-19 products and the sales decline of a trio of established cancer drugs is abating.

The Swiss drugs and diagnostic maker said group sales, which include diagnostics, would grow in the mid-single digit range, when adjusted for currency swings.

Full-year 2023 sales grew 1% and came in at 58.7 billion Swiss francs ($67.99 billion), the firm said in a statement, slightly below an average analyst estimate of close to 60 billion francs according to LSEG data. It was down from 63.3 billion francs in 2022.

Full-year adjusted operating profit slipped 1% to 19.2 billion francs, less than an analyst consensus of 19.6 billion francs compiled by LSEG.

“We achieved good sales growth that more than offset the sharp drop in COVID-19 sales”, CEO Thomas Schinecker said in a statement.

Schinecker, at the helm since March 2023, also said that a strong Swiss franc weighed on the value of overseas sales. During the fourth quarter, the U.S dollar was about 8% down from a year earlier on average against the Swiss franc.

In 2023, COVID-19 sales declined by 4.3 billion Swiss frances. Roche had previously predicted a COVID sales decline of 4.5 billion Swiss francs.

The company is banking on new drug Vabysmo, which is used to treat a common form of blindness in the elderly and which won approval in 2022, to drive short-term growth and it said on Thursday the drug has become one of its best selling medicines.

Revenues from Vabysmo came in just better-than-expected at 2.4 billion Swiss francs ($2.78 billion).

Roche is marketing the drug as a treatment option that can be given at longer intervals than the regimen of established Eylea by Bayer (OTC:) and partner Regeneron (NASDAQ:).

But Vabysmo faces a challenge in the longer-term from a high-dose version of rival Eylea, which requires less frequent injections and won U.S. approval in August last year, followed by other large markets including Europe.

New CEO Schinecker, who is pursuing a variety of therapeutic fields to offset falling oncology sales, has set a high deal pace to restore a development pipeline that was hit in 2022 by major trial setbacks in Alzheimer’s and cancer immunotherapy.

The Swiss pharma group jumped on the obesity drug bandwagon in November by agreeing to take over weight-loss drug developer Carmot Therapeutics for $2.7 billion.

But despite a flurry of deals, analysts have said there was a lack of trial read-outs scheduled for this year to give Roche an opportunity to regain investor trust in its ability to find promising treatments.

($1 = 0.8634 Swiss francs)

($1 = 0.8638 Swiss francs)

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