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Gilead Sovaldi $3.5 Billion: The Most Important Number in Biotech Earnings Season

Updated with new information following Gilead's conference call:

Gilead Sciences (GILD - Get Report) just reported second-quarter Sovaldi sales of $3.48 billion, a tad short of the buyside investor "whisper number" consensus of $3.5 billion. (But a lot lower than the "whisper whisper" consensus of $4 billion.)

In its first two quarters on the market, Sovaldi, a pill used to treat hepatitis C, has delivered $5.8 billion in revenue to Gilead. Remarkable, but Wall Street had high expectations for the drug going into tonight's earnings announcement. We'll soon see how traders react to the news. Gilead shares closed Wednesday at $90.34 in front of the second-quarter earnings announcement. 

Update: Gilead is down less than 1% to $89.70 in Wednesday's after-market trading session.

Overall, Gilead reported second-quarter adjusted earnings of $2.36 per share. Total revenue was $6.54 billion. Both the top- and bottom-line performance bested sell-side consensus forecasts, but that's not a surprise at all because analysts had been woefully under-counting Sovaldi sales for the quarter.

Gilead provided new guidance for 2014 total product sales of $21-23 billion, which includes Sovaldi sales for the first time. (Previous company guidance excluded Sovaldi.)

At the end of the second quarter, Gilead's cash pile stood at $9.58 billion. What is the company going to do with all that money? 

Update: More than 9,000 hepatitis C patients have been cured following Sovaldi treatment, the company said. More than 80,000 hepatitis C patients have initiated Sovaldi treatment since the drug's launch. 

Gilead President John Milligan described the Sovaldi pricing controversy as a "lively debate," and said progress is being made with Medicaid providers on reimbursement. He later added, "Some people consider Sovaldi an 'outlier' because we are curing people of a horrible disease in record time." Zing! 

On the R&D front, Gilead expects results later this quarter from phase III studies of TAF, the follow-on, improved version of the HIV drug Viread. This is an important clinical catalyst for the company's still-strong, core HIV franchise. 

Gilead repurchased $1.2 billion of its own stock (15.2 million shares) in the second quarter at an average price of $79.07. Another $5 billion share repurchase program has been authorized. The company continues to see share repurchases as a better use of cash over starting a dividend program. 

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.


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