Roche sales flat for Q1, but cancer meds shine

With all the hullabaloo about Illumina, Roche's ($RHHBY) first-quarter results were somewhat overshadowed. A good fight always attracts a crowd, and you can't say the same about sales figures. And Roche's numbers were hardly earth-shaking: Sales eroded 1%, partly because of the strong Swiss franc.

Currency effects cut 3 percentage points off Roche's sales growth, Bloomberg notes. At constant exchange rates, sales actually grew 2%, meeting Reuters' analyst forecast.

If pricing pressures and budget cuts in Europe had not pushed regional sales down 4%, the strong franc might not have succeeded in dragging growth into the red. Pharma sales dropped 1% overall, as U.S. growth of 6% helped offset the European cuts.

In all, sales came in at 11.03 billion francs, or $12.05 billion, down from 11.1 billion francs last year, and slightly less than Bloomberg's consensus estimates of 11.1 billion francs. Drug sales were 8.6 billion francs ($9.4 billion), while diagnostics brought in 2.4 billion francs ($2.6 billion). The company doesn't report earnings on a quarterly basis.

One interesting fact: Avastin reversed its downward slide, growing revenues for the period 1%, to 1.39 billion francs ($1.4 billion). Rituxan, the cancer drug that remains Roche's top seller, and Herceptin both grew 7%, to 1.61 billion francs ($1.75 billion) and 1.43 billion francs ($1.6 billion). "Bull's-eye numbers inline with expectations," said Vontobel analyst Andrew Weiss (as quoted by Reuters). "Oncology revenues overall performed about 1% better than expected."

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