Novartis earnings slip 4% on strong dollar, Gilenya competition

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FILE PHOTO: A sign marks Novartis' Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge

By Ludwig Burger

(Reuters) -Quarterly operating income at Swiss drugmaker Novartis slipped as competition weighed on prescriptions of multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya, but the earnings outlook at generic-drugs unit Sandoz perked up again.

For Novartis, which reports results in dollars, a strong U.S. currency was also a drag on the value of sales generated outside the United States.

Third-quarter group core operating income declined 4% to $4.28 billion, slightly below the average analyst consensus of $4.30 billion.

Quarterly sales slipped 4% to $12.54 billion, falling short of the market view for $12.9 billion

Novartis said it still expected sales and core operating income to grow at a “mid single digit” percentage, when excluding currency swings, but it again lifted its earnings guidance for generic-drugs unit Sandoz, which will be spun off next year.

Driven by sales of cheaper versions of biotechnology drugs that lost patent protection, the division’s core operating income is now expected to grow by a “low single digit” percentage. The previous outlook was for earnings at the unit to be broadly flat.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week turned down Novartis’ bid to block the launch of generic versions of the company’s blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya, which generated $2.8 billion in sales last year.

Quarterly Gilenya sales fell a currency-adjusted 24% to $507 million, below a consensus of $555 million.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger, Editing by Miranda Murray)