Strong Numbers Ignite Amgen

Shares of Amgen ( AMGN) were hitting a 52-week high Wednesday, a day after the biotech company reported big second-quarter numbers and again raised its forecast for the fiscal year.

Recently Amgen was up $8.09, or 11%, to $78.61, and the stock has been as high as $79.27 in active trading. The best close for the last year is $72. The Amex Biotechnology Index was gaining 2%.

With the move, it passed Genentech ( DNA) to claim the title of biggest biotech by market capitalization.

The Thousand Oaks, Calif., company posted adjusted earnings of 88 cents a share for the quarter, up from 62 cents a share in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted net income rose to $1.1 billion from $809 million a year ago.

When calculated in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, earnings per share climbed to 82 cents from 57 cents in the same quarter last year, and GAAP net income was $1 billion.

During the second quarter, total product sales increased 26% to $3.1 billion from $2.4 billion last year. U.S. sales totaled $2.5 billion, and international sales were $540 million. Total revenue grew 23% in the second quarter to $3.2 billion.

For the second time this year, Amgen raised its full-year revenue growth and earnings guidance. The company expects total revenue to grow at a mid-to-high teens percent rate this year and said adjusted earnings should be $3.10 to $3.20 a share, compared with its prior prediction of $2.80 to $2.90. Earlier this year, Amgen had initially offered profit guidance of $2.70 to $2.85 and said revenue growth would be in the high single digits to low teens.

On average, analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were looking for a profit of 72 cents a share and revenue of just under $3 billion in the second quarter. For the full year, the consensus estimates are for earnings of $2.89 a share and revenue of $12.2 billion.

Worldwide sales of Aranesp were up 36% to $837 million in the second quarter, and sales of Epogen reached $647 million, up 2%. Combined global sales of Neulasta and Neupogen were $899 million, an increase of 25%. Enbrel sales rose 45% to $639 million.

On a conference call after the earnings release, Amgen said that in the latter half of the year its revenue growth rate would probably slow and its operating expenses would increase.

Amgen executives said the results from a trial for the cancer drug panitumumab are scheduled to be out at the end of the third quarter. Additionally, the company said it enrolled more than 10,000 patients in trials for AMG-162, a treatment for postmenopausal osteoarthritis.

Another product in the company's pipeline is AMG-706 for thyroid cancer, for which Amgen has received fast track designation. Data for dose-ranging studies are due out next year.

The company also said it received $30 million after Genentech terminated an agreement to produce Enbrel. However, Amgen said it has adequate capacity to produce the drug on its own.

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