Novo Nordisk First-Quarter Profit Climbs on Insulins, Victoza

Novo Nordisk A/S (NOVOB), the world’s largest insulin maker, reported a 28 percent increase in first-quarter profit on higher sales of its insulins and the Victoza diabetes treatment.

Net income climbed to 5.98 billion kroner ($1.1 billion), Bagsvaerd, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk said in a statement today. That beat the 5.82 billion kroner average estimate of 20 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Sales of its so-called modern insulins, including Levemir, climbed 14 percent to 8.99 billion kroner, the company said. Sales of Victoza, which mimics a hormone called GLP-1 and stimulates natural insulin production, jumped 35 percent to 2.68 billion kroner in the quarter. Although Novo is introducing a new insulin in Europe, called Tresiba, the company faced a setback in February when U.S. regulators rejected the product.

“Earnings continue on their way, without U.S. Tresiba,” Brian Bourdot and other analysts at Barclays Plc’s investment- banking unit in London wrote in a April 23 note to clients.

The Food and Drug Administration demanded a new study to assess the heart risk of Tresiba, delaying its entry in the biggest drug market by at least two years. Novo developed the medicine to challenge Sanofi’s top-selling Lantus, which garnered 4.96 billion euros ($6.5 billion) in sales last year. Tresiba, approved in Europe, is already sold in Denmark and the U.K. as well as in Japan.

Slow, Steady

“We expect a slow and steady uptake in Europe given the need to go through significant reimbursement discussions, lingering uncertainty around cardiovascular safety and a fierce marketing effort by Sanofi,” Mark Dainty and other analysts at Citigroup Global Markets wrote in a note to clients yesterday.

Novo raised its 2013 forecast for sales growth excluding currency shifts to 9 percent to 11 percent, though it kept its operating profit target. Full-year revenue was previously expected to climb 8 percent to 11 percent excluding currency shifts as operating profit on that level gains about 10 percent.

U.S. regulators in March also put Victoza, a key drug for Novo, on watch for a potential link to pancreatic cancer. Novo says the product is safe and the company continually monitors its safety profile. Victoza is a once-daily injection, which competes with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY)’s twice-daily Byetta and a once-weekly version of the product, called Bydureon.

To contact the reporter on this story: Albertina Torsoli in Paris at atorsoli@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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