Shire upbeat on 2012 as earnings top estimates

Shire ($SHPGY) bucked fourth-quarter trends with a 47% increase in earnings and expectations for continued growth in the coming year. At a time when most of Big Pharma was suffering declining Q4 profits or diminished forecasts for the coming year--or both--the specialty drugmaker broke $4 billion in annual revenues on double-digit increases for its key drugs.

CEO Angus Russell touted plans for geographic expansion of his company's ADHD franchise, which delivered market-beating growth in the U.S. Its Vyvanse brand has moved into Brazil as Venvanse, which is awaiting European approval under the same brand name. Plus, Shire is working to expand use of Vyvanse to new indications; earlier this week, it won the FDA nod for adult ADHD, and the drug is under testing as an add-on for depression.

The company also has big plans for its rare-disease drugs, which grew at rates ranging from 15% (Elaprase, for Hunter Syndrome) to 79% (Vpriv, for Gaucher disease). Shire jumped at the chance to steal market share from rare-disease rival Genzyme when that company's supply problems began a few years ago. And now that the Sanofi-owned unit has gained approval for its new manufacturing facility outside Boston, Shire is close to bringing its new plant online, and it's waiting for the FDA to decide whether to approve Replagal, a rival to Genzyme's Fabry disease treatment Fabrazyme.

"Supported by our strong cash generation, we will continue to invest in growth prospects that will further leverage our established infrastructure," Russell said in a statement. "We expect 2012 to be a year of good earnings growth, as we aim to deliver increasing value to all our stakeholders."

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