Chiron ( CHIR) said Monday that, once again, it would produce less flu vaccine than it had previously predicted. The biotech company also said financial results for 2005 will be below its previously stated earnings guidance of $1.20 to $1.45 a share, but it didn't provide details in an announcement that was issued after markets had closed. Chiron said it expects to provide more information on vaccine production and financial guidance "in the weeks ahead." Wall Street's full-year EPS consensus is $1.22, according to Thomson First Call, but individual analyst estimates range from $1.04 to $1.42. The Emeryville, Calif., company said it has begun shipping its Fluvirin vaccine and will continue to do so in October, November and December. The Food and Drug Administration
gave clearance last week for Chiron to begin selling a portion -- about 1.5 million doses -- of its Fluvirin vaccine. The company said it wouldn't produce as much vaccine for the 2005-06 U.S. season as the 18 million to 26 million doses that it had estimated in June. That represented a reduction from the 25 million to 30 million doses that Chiron had predicted earlier in the year. And that figure was less than the 48 million to 50 million doses that the U.S. had been counting on for the 2004-05 flu season. Chiron sold no vaccine during the last flu season because of manufacturing and sterility problems at its Liverpool, England, plant. The facility's license was suspended by British health authorities before being reinstated in March. On Monday, Chiron blamed the latest cut in its vaccine estimate on "production delays related to remediation as well as lower production output associated with adaptation to new processes and procedures implemented in remediation." The company had to meet many regulatory requirements by U.S. and British regulators.