Updated from 7:50 a.m. EDTWall Street asks a lot from Genentech ( DNA). And the company keeps delivering. Shares of the California biotech were up 4.4% Tuesday following a blowout third quarter in which sales of two key oncology medicines surged past analysts' estimates. Genentech reported a 56% rise in earnings from a year ago and said full-year earnings growth will be similarly juiced. The stock was recently up $3.64 to $85.64 on Instinet. The price is 71 times this year's Thomson First Call consensus and 49 times the 2006 estimate. Both numbers are likely to move higher based on Genentech's profit forecasts. Sales in the quarter were paced by Avastin, which grossed about $325 million in the quarter, and Herceptin, which raked in $215 million. In both cases, the top-line performance was about $40 million higher than the Wall Street consensus, contributing to Genentech's fairly significant profit upside. On the bottom line, Genentech earned $359.4 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with $230.9 million, or 21 cents a share, last year. Excluding a litigation charge, the company earned 35 cents a share in the quarter, beating the Thomson First Call consensus by a nickel. Sales rose 46% to $1.75 billion, about $120 million ahead of estimates. Avastin and Herceptin sales were up 78% and 70%, respectively, from a year ago. Among the company's other major products, sales of Tarceva were $73.2 million, about $8 million short of estimates, while sales of Rituxan rose 16% to $456.2 million, about $34 million shy of estimates. For all of 2005, Genentech is currently expecting year-over-year non-GAAP earnings per share growth of around 50%. Based on a non-GAAP profit of 83 cents a share for 2004, that forecast would imply earnings of about $1.25 a share this year, before any items. Analysts had been estimating $1.20 a share. On a conference call, Genentech noted that it runs the risk of becoming a victim of its own success. The company says that the positive revenue and earnings news could create the belief that this caliber of performance will continue, and the "success of Avastin and Herceptin may create unrealistic expectations." Regarding the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's re-examination of the company's Cabilly patent, Genentech said it could take from two to 12 months to hear from the office. Overall pretax income related to the patent was about $20 million, or 1 cent a share, for the quarter. Genentech said its third-quarter Cabilly-related income represents roughly one-quarter of the full year's expected results.
Separately, recent independent investigations have shown that Avastin is effective against an eyesight-robbing disease called wet age-related macular degeneration, a condition Genentech is hoping to treat with an experimental drug called Lucentis. For investors, the concern would be that even if Lucentis gets regulatory approval, Avastin could be used as a cheaper treatment for the condition. That would mean the company runs the risk of cannibalizing its own sales with an already existing product. However, Genentech says using Avastin for the eye disease might involve even greater risks than lost sales. "Avastin and Lucentis are two different drugs, designed and developed to treat two different diseases," says Susan D. Desmond-Hellmann, president of product development at Genentech. Desmond-Hellmann says she's confident in Lucentis as a treatment for wet AMD, but she can't say the same for Avastin. Genentech says it's in discussions with the Food and Drug Administration regarding a change in the label for Avastin to indicate that the cancer drug isn't suitable for intraocular use.