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Lilly beats forecasts on cost cuts, raises 2015 view

Eli Lily and Company's President and CEO John Lechleiter speaks during the APEC CEO summit in Honolulu, Hawaii November 11, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

By Ransdell Pierson

(Reuters) - Eli Lilly & Co (LLY.N) reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings due to cost controls and sales of new treatments for diabetes and cancer, keeping the U.S. drugmaker on track for its planned return to growth this year.

Lilly raised its full-year profit forecast to reflect expected investment gains and lower spending on research and marketing.

"We are encouraged by the combination of Lilly's new product cycle coupled with expense management, which we see driving healthy earnings growth over the next five years" or longer, J.P. Morgan analyst Chris Schott said in a research note.

Lilly has been strapped with declining sales and earnings since 2011 after sales of its biggest products plunged due to competition from cheaper generics.

But the Indianapolis drugmaker has refused to consider merging with another large drugmaker, saying its own pipeline of experimental drugs would restore earnings growth by 2015.

Cyramza, the company's new treatment for lung cancer, posted sales of $111 million in the quarter, while the company's recently approved diabetes drug Trulicity pulled in $74 million.

One the company's most promising drugs is Jardiance, following data last month from a large trial that showed the pill slashed deaths 32 percent among patients with type 2 diabetes at risk of heart attack. Jardiance had sales of just $15 million in the quarter, but analysts expect it to eventually post big sales if medical societies recommend early use of the drug.

Lilly expects a profit of $3.40 to $3.45 per share this year, excluding special items, from its earlier view of $3.20 to $3.30 per share. That would reflect growth of up to 24 percent over last year.

Edward Jones analyst Ashtyn Evans on Thursday maintained her "hold" rating on Lilly, saying its shares trade at a premium to most rivals and already reflect the company's improving earnings prospects and strong lineup of experimental drugs.

Company sales rose 2 percent in the quarter to $4.96 billion, slightly below Wall Street expectations. They would have risen 10 percent if not for the stronger U.S. dollar.

Net quarterly profit rose to $799.7 million, or 75 cents per share, from $500.6 million, or 47 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, Lilly earned 89 cents per share, handily beating the average analyst estimate of 76 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Lilly shares fell 0.6 percent, amid a 0.5 percent decline for the drug sector.

(Additional reporting by Vidya L. Nathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)