Skip to main content

Shares of

Barr Pharmaceuticals


marched ahead Thursday following a second-quarter earnings report that included a 79% increase in revenue as well as earnings per share -- excluding one-time charges -- that easily beat analysts' expectations.

The company's stock was up $1.04, or 1.4%, to $76.38.

Barr, based in Woodcliff Lakes, N.J., earned $35.1 million, or 49 cents a share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with $42.7 million, or 62 cents a share a year ago.

The result includes an after-tax write-off amounting to $35.6 million, or 32 cents a share, related to the company's November purchase of assets of Endeavor Pharmaceuticals.

Excluding the write-off, earnings would have been 81 cents a share, well above the 73 cents a share predicted by analysts polled by Thomson First Call.

Revenue jumped to $374.1 million from $209 million for the same period last year.

"This was a strong quarter for

Barr as higher than expected total sales were slightly offset by a lower-than-expected gross margin," said Marc Goodman, a Morgan Stanley analyst, in a research note to clients. Goodman, who began tracking the company last week, has an overweight rating on Barr's stock. He doesn't own shares. His firm says it "does and intends to do business with companies covered in its research reports."

Bruce L. Downey, Barr's chairman and CEO, told analysts in a telephone conference call that there are "too many moving parts right now" for him to provide firm financial guidance for the fiscal year ending June 30.

He said he will have a better idea at the company's March 10 meeting for analysts. Downey stuck to his previous predictions of earnings growth in the 20% to 25% range above last fiscal year's $2.62 a share , or a range of $3.14 to $3.28 a share.

One of the "moving parts" is Seasonale, the company's proprietary contraceptive which enables women to reduce the number of menstrual periods to 4 from 13. A woman takes Seasonale for 84 consecutive days then takes placebos for seven days.

Seasonale was approved for marketing last fall by the Food and Drug Administration. Barr began selling the drug in mid-November. But because the company has been trying to educate some 32,000 physicians and to provide them with free samples, Downey said his company won't be able to quantify Seasonale's progress until April or May.

Downey told analysts he was pleased that the oral contraceptive "has been well received by the medical community," adding that early prescription data "is promising." He declined to provide details on the company free-sample strategy or the precise timing and budget of Barr's direct-to-consumer advertising campaign.

Barr makes many generic oral contraceptives and now has nearly 22% of the total U.S. prescription market for the drugs, said Ken Kulju, of Credit Suisse First Boston, in a Thursday report to clients. Kulju rates Barr's stock as outperform. (He doesn't own shares, but his firm expects to receive or seek investment banking-related compensation from Barr within three months.)

Excluding Seasonale, Kulju expects revenue from Barr's generic oral contraceptives to jump 50% to $412 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, and 21.4% to $500 million for the following fiscal year.

Another "moving part" for Barr is Plan B, the so-called morning-after birth control pill that Barr is in the process of acquiring. Barr announced last October that it had signed a letter of intent to purchase

Women's Capital Corp.

a privately-held Washington, D.C.-based company, which owns Plan B. The drug is prescribed for women within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse to reduce pregnancy. Downey said Thursday that he expected the deal with WCC to close this month. Terms were not revealed.

The FDA is expected to rule in two weeks on whether Plan B can be converted to an over-the-counter product. Two FDA advisory committees recommended in December that the drug be granted over-the-counter status. The FDA doesn't always follow proposals by its advisory committees, but it usually does so. Regardless of the FDA's decision, Downey said Plan B "will be a nice product for us."

Barr and WCC say that research shows Plan B can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 89% after a single act of unprotected sex when the drug is taken within 72 hours of intercourse. If the drug is taken within 24 hours of intercourse, the pregnancy-reduction rate is 95%. The companies say five states -- Alaska, California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Washington -- permit the drug to be used without an advance prescription from doctors or other health care providers.

Another strong performer for Barr for the second quarter was the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, which produced $145.4 million, well above the $115 million predicted by Credit Suisse analyst Kulju. The antibiotic is manufactured by the German giant Bayer, and an agreement arising out of a patent challenge allowed Barr to begin distributing the drug in June 2003.

Kulju expects strong sales for the rest of Barr's fiscal year, reaching $499.1 million. But Barr won't have much time to celebrate. Barr will lose its distribution exclusivity on June 9, 2004; then a flood of generic competitors will hit the market. Kulju predicts Barr's antibiotic revenue will plunge to only $70 million when the company's 2005 fiscal year ends.