Gilead posts 17 pct profit rise, readies for HCV launch


By Deena Beasley

Oct 29 (Reuters) - Biotechnology company Gilead Sciences Inc reported a 17 percent jump in quarterly net profit onTuesday and raised its outlook for full-year sales as revenueand demand for its flagship HIV drugs exceeded Wall Streetestimates.

Analysts expect the company's sales to surge even highernext year when Gilead plans to launch a new so-called HCVtreatment for people infected with the liver-destroyinghepatitis C virus.

Adjusting for one-time items, Gilead earned 52 cents a sharein the third quarter, exceeding the average analyst estimate of48 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"They beat, ... driven by better product revenues and lowerexpenses," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee. "It wasalso positive that they took up their product sales guidance."

Sales of HIV drug Atripla rose 4 percent to $899.7 million,while sales of an older product, Truvada, rose 1 percent to$813.7 million. Sales of newer HIV drug Complera more thandoubled to $210.7 million, and the recently launched Stribildhad sales of $144 million in the quarter.

Gilead is the world's largest maker of branded drugs totreat the human immunodeficiency virus, the cause of AIDS.

Quarterly revenue rose 15 percent to $2.78 billion, beatingthe $2.72 billion forecast by analysts.

For the full year, Gilead raised its estimate for netproduct sales to between $10.3 billion and $10.4 billion, from aprevious range of $10.0 billion to $10.2 billion.

An advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationlast week voted to recommend that the agency approve Gilead'sapplication for experimental HCV drug sofosbuvir to combat thehepatitis C virus. A final FDA decision is expected by earlyDecember.

Gilead estimates that over 4 million Americans are infectedwith hepatitis C, which causes deadly illnesses such ascirrhosis and liver cancer.

Wall Street analysts have forecast sofosbuvir sales of $1.85billion next year alone, assuming a price of $85,000 perpatient, according to ISI Group.

"We feel we've got a very strong value proposition withsofosbuvir," Kevin Young, head of commercial operations atGilead, said on a conference call with analysts and investors.

Clinical trials of sofosbuvir in combination with otherexperimental oral Gilead drugs - a regimen that has not yet beensubmitted for regulatory approval - resulted in more than 95percent of patients being cured.

Gilead's third-quarter net profit rose to $788.6 million, or47 cents per share, from $675.5 million, or 43 cents per share,a year earlier. The number of shares outstanding rose in thelatest quarter from the prior-year period.

Chief Financial Officer Robin Washington said those buybackswill continue next year.

Shares of Gilead, which have more than doubled over the past12 months, were up 1 percent in after-hours Nasdaq trading at$70.25.

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