Genentech

(DNA)

said its first-quarter results topped estimates as sales of the cancer drugs Avastin and Herceptin helped the big biotech overcome a weaker-than-expected showing from the lymphoma treatment Rituxan, its biggest seller.

The company also raised its profit forecast for the full year. Adjusted earnings per share should grow 45% to 55% from 2005, an increase from last month's guidance of 40% to 50%, thanks to a more promising outlook for product sales and royalty revenue.

Rroduct sales rose to $1.64 billion, up 39% from $1.19 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Total operating revenue advanced 36% to nearly $1.99 billion, up from $1.46 billion last year and ahead of the consensus Wall Street projection of roughly $1.97 billion.

Genentech earned $421 million, or 39 cents a share, in the first quarter. Last year, it had net income of $284 million and 27 cents a share. Before items, including stock-based compensation expenses, Genentech would have earned 46 cents a share in the latest quarter, 5 cents better than analysts expected.

U.S. sales of Rituxan rose 8% in the first quarter to $477 million, but the consensus forecast was for $499 million. Avastin sales nearly doubled from last year to $398 million, surpassing estimates by about $8 million, and rose 11% from the fourth quarter.

Sales of Herceptin in the U.S. jumped to $290 million in the quarter, more than twice last year and up 16% sequentially. On average, analysts were looking for sales of $264 million.

Domestic sales of Tarceva increased 94% to $93 million, Xolair sales were higher by 46% to $95 million, and revenue from Raptiva improved 24% to $21 million.

For all of 2006, the company is expected to earn $1.85 a share before items, but Genentech's forecast implies a profit of $1.86 to $1.98 a share, based on last year's adjusted earnings of $1.28.

The results were released after the markets had closed. In extended trading, Genentech was down $1.01 to $80.69, giving back nearly all of its $1.07 gain from the regular session.