Novo reports growth for last year but tamps down expectations for this one

Novo Nordisk ($NVO), the world leader in the production of insulin drugs, today reported growth across the board for 2013. Sales were were up 7% to 83.6 billion Danish kroners ($15.2 billion.) Operating profit grew 7% and its net was up 18% to 25.2 billion kroner ($4.6 billion.) But the perennially cautious drugmaker did not raise sales guidance for this year as much as investors were expecting.

The Denmark-based company said investors can expect growth in the range of 8% to 11% and not the 13% that analysts had forecast. But then the company last year raised guidance three times during the year, Reuters points out, and that was after the FDA gave it gut check by rejecting its highly anticipated insulin Tresiba. CEO Lars Rebien Sorensen pointed to the loss of a couple of contracts with pharmacy group Express Scripts ($ESRX) in the U.S. and expected competition from generics as the reasons he was not more optimistic.

Victoza, the product that Novo has been leaning heavily on for growth since the FDA turned down Tresiba, continued to come through for the company. Sales were up 27% in local currencies. Sorensen also said that in the 8 markets where Tresiba is approved, including Europe and Japan, "performance has been encouraging." The company is also gearing up for the new trial for Tresiba, which the FDA called for to further explore its heart risks, Bloomberg reports. It expects results in two or three years.

The Tresiba setback was not the only hurt put on the drugmaker last year. Express Scripts decided for 2014 to drop Victoza and top-selling modern insulin NovoRapid. Express Scripts chose to use Eli Lilly's ($LLY) insulin instead of NovoRapid, and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Byetta and Bydureon. Analysts predicted that cut would shave up to 2% off the company's market share in the U.S.

Besides reporting earnings, Novo today also named Kare Schultz president and chief operating officer, setting off some speculation that he is being groomed for the CEO position. Sorensen, who is 59, will retire by the time he is 65, but he pushed back at questions of whether that would happen sooner than later.

The promotion gives Schultz an opportunity to "develop his leadership," Bloomberg reports the CEO said during the earnings call. He also made it clear that no successon plan is in place. "My departure isn't imminent," he said.

- here's the earnings release
- read the Reuters story
- more from Bloomberg

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