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Eli Lilly Tops Q4 Earnings Forecast, Sees COVID Therapies Sales Boost in 2021

Eli Lilly lowered its 2021 earnings forecast, but said sales of its coronavirus treatments would add as much as $2 billion to it overall revenue total.

Eli Lilly & Co.  (LLY) - Get Eli Lilly and Company Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings Friday, and noted that sales of its developing coronavirus therapies would add as much as $2 billion to its total revenues this year.

Eli Lilly said adjusted profits for the three months ending in December were pegged at $2.75 each, a 59% increase from the same period last year and well ahead of the Street consensus forecast of $2.32. Group revenues, Eli Lilly said, rose 21.8% from last year to $7.44 billion, coming in just ahead of analysts' forecasts of a $7.3 billion tally.

Looking into the coming year, Eli Lilly said research and development expenses, including those linked to its developing coronavirus therapies would likely be in the range of $6.5 billion to $6.7 billion. The therapies themselves will likely generate between $1 billion and $2 billion in revenues, the company said, helping boost its overall top line to between $26.5 billion and $28 billion.  

Eli Lilly's reported earnings, however, are likely to come in between $7.10 and $7.75 per share, down from its December forecast of between $7.25 per share and $7.90 per share.

"Lilly closed a complex year by delivering impressive results in the fourth quarter of 2020. We finished the year with strong momentum in our core business areas, as volume-based revenue growth for our newest medicines and initial sales of our COVID-19 antibody therapy, coupled with our ongoing productivity agenda, drove robust margin expansion and solid earnings growth," said CEO David Ricks. 

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"I am also encouraged by exciting recent data readouts for three of our most important pipeline assets: tirzepatide, LOXO-305 and donanemab," he added. "Each of these potential medicines has a chance to significantly improve patient outcomes in areas of high unmet medical need, and, should they go on to receive approvals, reinforce our growth prospects for the decade ahead."  

Eli Lilly shares were marked 2.2% higher in pre-market trading immediately following the earnings release to indicate an opening bell price of $214.75 each.

Eli Lilly said also said sales of its blockbuster diabetes treatment, Trulicity, rose 24% from last year to $1.502 billion.

Earlier this month, Eli Lilly said its developing coronavirus treatments significantly reduced hospitalizations and fatalities for high-risk patients in late-stage trials.

Eli Lilly said its two treatments -- Bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555) 2800 mg and etesevimab (LY-CoV016) -- reduced the risk of either death of hospitalization by 70% when compared to high-risk patients taking only a placebo. The treatment pair also showed "statistically significant improvements" on all of the key secondary endpoints in Eli Lilly's phase 3 "Blaze-1" trial, the company said, allowing it to explore a lower-dose course in an upcoming trial.