Updated from 1:55 p.m. ESTExecutives of Genentech ( DNA) Friday reaffirmed their predictions that earnings per share would grow a minimum of 20% this year and for the first time said they'd do it again in 2005. And for good measure, they also told a group of analysts and investors gathered in New York that annual EPS growth should be 20% through 2010. All of the company's estimates are made on a non-GAAP (generally accepted accounting practices) basis. But the company's 2004 and 2005 predictions fell below consensus opinions according to Thomson One Analytics. Based on last year's $1.20 earnings per share, which excludes one-time charges, the company's 2004 prediction would be $1.44, or 10 cents below the consensus. And based on the company's 2004 estimate, the 2005 EPS prediction of $1.73 is 39 cents lower than the consensus. Some analysts grumbled that the company was being overly cautious given the fact that it has several fast-growing and promising drugs in the marketplace. Investors didn't appear concerned. In mid-afternoon trading, Genentech's stock was up $1.67, or 1.58%, to $107.70. Shares traded as high as $109.49. The stock has more than doubled since last May thanks to the growth of the company's biggest product, Rituxan, for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which produced $1.49 billion in revenue last year. That accounted for 45% of total revenue. The company also enjoyed steady sales growth in Herceptin, a treatment for advanced breast cancer, which netted $425 million in sales last year. The stock is also being driven by the Wall Street's predictions for Avastin, the treatment for advanced colorectal cancer, which has been on the market for less than two weeks following its approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Within the last nine months, Genentech has launched Avastin; Xolair for asthma; and Raptiva for psoriasis. The growth prospects are sufficiently strong, said Arthur D. Levinson, Genentech's chairman and chief executive, that the company plans to hire 1800 people this year, a nearly 30% gain over last year. Last year, Genentech hired also 1800 workers.