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Chiron Beats Estimates by a Penny

The biotech posted lower Q2 earnings, but its boosted outlook should ensure full-year earnings exceed last year's.

Chiron

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posted lower earnings in the second quarter, although results beat Wall Street estimates by a penny.

The Emeryville, Calif.-based biopharmaceutical company earned $40 million, or 21 cents per share, in the second quarter, compared with $57 million, or 30 cents per share, one year ago. Results were reported on a pro forma basis, excluding acquisition-related charges.

Analysts were looking for earnings of 20 cents per share, according to consensus estimates compiled by Thompson Financial/First Call.

Revenue during the quarter grew 8% to $261 million, compared with last year. That includes total drug sales of $174 million, 8% higher than last year.

Chiron also raised its estimate for 2001 earnings to a range of 90 cents per share to 95 cents per share, compared with previous guidance of 85 cents per share. The consensus analyst estimate is for 86 cents per share.

Chiron is one of the biotech sector's most consistent performers, but a threadbare pipeline of new drugs and products -- needed to fuel future growth -- plagues the company.

Chiron is still awaiting

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Food and Drug Administration

approval for a super-sensitive test to screen for HIV and hepatitis in donated blood. The new blood test is already used by a majority of U.S. blood banks and has been approved overseas, but Chiron must sell the test at cost in the U.S. until it gets the green light from the FDA.

On its conference call with analysts this evening, Chiron CEO Sean Lance said the company expects approval in the second half of the year. But Robertson Stephens analyst Mike King, in a July 16 research note, said the FDA was asking Chiron for more information on the blood test, which could lead to an approval delay until the end of the year. King downgraded Chiron to market underperform. His firm doesn't have a banking relationship with the company.

Chiron is also testing a new drug to treat sepsis, a fatal blood infection, but late-stage testing on the drug, dubbed TFPI, won't be finished until next year. Developing sepsis drugs has proven to be a very elusive goal for many biotech firms. Most recently,

Eli Lilly

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suffered a setback in June when the FDA delayed review of its experimental sepsis drug.

Given the company's boosted financial outlook, Chiron's full-year earnings should exceed last year's results, but just barely. In early June, Chiron raised more than $400 million in a convertible stock offering, boosting its cash coffers to about $1.3 billion and raising speculation that the company would ramp up its acquisition engines to boost future earnings and sales growth.

Shares of Chiron closed Wednesday up 5 cents to $42.06 per share.