Shire set to grow in 2015, but don't expect a repeat of last year, it says

Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov

Shire ($SHPG) has some hefty sales forecasts in place for 2020, when CEO Flemming Ornskov has said it'll be bringing in a $10 billion top-line haul. Now, after a monster sales vault in 2014, the company is nearly 60% there--but don't expect a repeat growth surge this year, it says.

After putting up a $5.83 billion top-line haul for last year--a 23% increase over 2013's tally that fell in line with analysts' expectations--the Dublin drugmaker expects its product sales to grow by a low-to-mid single digit percentage in 2015, it said Thursday. Foreign exchange headwinds will cut into growth by 3% to 4% as the U.S. dollar strengthens, and last December's patent exclusivity loss on blood pressure and the ADHD drug Intuniv will take its toll, too.

The earnings outlook is better, with Shire expecting NPS Pharma--which it last month agreed to buy for $5.2 billion--to help EPS expansion land in the mid-single digits for the year, it said. And as Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal wrote in a note to clients, "the history of the company in 2014 is of setting guidance low and beating it."

While Shire currently boasts "the strongest pipeline we've ever had," according to its skipper, further acquisitions will no doubt be helping it toward its long-term goals. Even after the NPS buy, the company has plenty of cash to throw around, and Ornskov has said it's scouting for deals.

The question is where those deals will come. While rare diseases, the site of Shire's last two pickups--NPS and ViroPharma--remains a possibility, Ornskov told investors on the company's earnings call that on Shire is casting a wider net, Bloomberg reports.

That could include GI specialist Salix Pharmaceuticals ($SLXP), which Shire reportedly has its eye on. After all, GI is familiar territory for the company, and Shire has its own GI corps gearing up to add NPS' short bowel syndrome-fighter Gattex to its lineup.

But if it does go after Salix, it may have competition. Serial acquirer Valeant ($VRX), fresh off a deal for bankrupt Dendreon's assets, may also be weighing a play for the North Carolina drugmaker; it's talking with its advisers about a potential offer, Bloomberg reported early this month.

- read Shire's release (PDF)
- see Reuters' take
- see Bloomberg's take

Special Report: The 25 most influential people in biopharma today - 2013 - Flemming Ornskov - Shire