Gilead profits surge 63%, but not where Wall Street expected

Gilead Sciences was in a position to say, "I told you so," when its first-quarter earnings fell a little short of Wall Street expectations Thursday. Profits were still up 63% even as sales of older HIV drugs came in shy of forecasts. The Foster, CA, company had taken some of the shine off its last earnings report in its previous quarter by pointing out that stellar sales were powered in part by wholesalers stocking up ahead of price hikes on its HIV drugs.

Gilead ($GILD) is the leader in branded HIV meds but has been broadening its position in the market and has an all-oral cocktail for hepatitis C that, if approved, is expected to lead in a market that may top $20 billion. Hours before reporting earnings, the company said it would take sofosbuvir into a late-stage trial early after 95% of patients who used it had been cured, and that after just 8 weeks, Bloomberg pointed out. The company snatched up the prospect when it acquired Pharmasset last year in an $11 billion deal.

Total revenues in the first quarter were $2.53 billion, up 11%. Sales of its antiviral products, which made up $2.06 billion of that, were up 7%. That reflected 8% growth in Europe and 7% in the U.S. The company said there was especially strong demand for combo drugs Complera/Eviplera and Stribild, which helped make up for an 8% fall off of sales of Truvada. Sales of Truvada were one of the highlights of its previous quarter when they jumped 12% to $758 million, so some of the deflation could be tied back to that earlier spike.

While Wall Street had expected adjusted earnings to be 50 cents a share instead of the 48 cents it reported, investors didn't punish the company. Shares were up 2% for the day, closing at $52.30. As Reuters pointed out, they have nearly doubled in the last 12 months.

- here's the earnings release
- here's the release on its hep C trial 
- read the Reuters story
- more from Bloomberg

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