GENET archive


BUSINESS: Pharming rises most in four years after test results

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Bloomberg, USA

AUTHOR: Joram Kanner


DATE:   20.08.2007

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Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Pharming NV rose the most in four years in Amsterdam trading after the unprofitable Dutch biotechnology company’s treatment for a painful and sometimes fatal disease worked in a clinical study.

No patients had a flare up of hereditary angioedema, a tissue swelling, during a late-stage test in the study of the medicine, called Rhucin, the Leiden, Netherlands-based company said today in a statement by Hugin newswire.

Based on the results, doctors stopped the trial and will give Rhucin to those patients who were taking a placebo. Full data will be given to analysts at a meeting Aug. 30 in London. The experimental product is made from the milk of genetically modified rabbits.

”Every time Pharming says it has positive results from the study, the shares show a sharp increase. The stock was much higher six months ago,” said Christophe van Vaeck, an analyst at KBC Securities in Brussels. ”I am actually waiting for the approval of the product, which has been postponed several times.”

Pharming shares rose 61 cents, or 27 percent, to 2.83 euros in Amsterdam, the biggest increase since May 15, 2003. The stock has declined 32 percent this year, giving the company a market value of more than 258 million euros ($348 million).

                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------


SOURCE: Bloomberg, USA

AUTHOR: Luke Timmerman & Angela Zimm


DATE:   15.08.2007

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Aug. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Amgen Inc., the world’s largest biotechnology company, will slash jobs for the first time in its 27-year history, close plants and cut capital spending in response to declining sales of its top-selling drug, Aranesp.

The job cuts will total 2,200 to 2,600, or 12 to 14 percent of the workforce, under a plan to save more than $1 billion in 2008, Amgen said today in a statement. Earnings this year will be lower than projected, the company said.

Amgen shares have lost 26 percent this year after studies showed the company’s two top-selling anemia drugs, Aranesp and Epogen, raised the risk of death when given in high doses. The drugs brought in almost half of Amgen’s $14.3 billion revenue last year. Payment limits by insurers and safety warnings from U.S. regulators threaten to cut $1.3 billion in sales this year, analysts say.

”They do realize that the Aranesp franchise is damaged,” said Sven Borho, a portfolio manager with Orbimed Advisors in New York, which owns 5 million Amgen shares. ”Step by step the news got worse on Aranesp. Amgen is a painful story this year.”

Amgen shares fell 39 cents to $50.20 as of 6:35 p.m. New York time in extended trading after the report. Earlier, they fell 73 cents to $50.59 at 4 p.m. in regular Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading.


Spending Cuts

The company, based in Thousand Oaks, California, will take a pretax charge in 2007 and 2008 of $600 million to $700 million because of the cutbacks, according to the statement. It will close some production operations and reduce the size of other units to become more efficient, Amgen said.

Capital spending will be slashed by $1.9 billion during the two years, bolstering cash flow, Amgen said.

The drugmaker lowered its profit forecast for 2007 to $4.13 to $4.23 a share, excluding stock options and other expenses. In January, the company said it expected profit of $4.30 to $4.50 a share for the year. The average estimate was $4.24 in a Bloomberg survey of 25 analysts.

”Recent changes in coverage rules and adjustments to Amgen’s FDA-approved labels for Epogen and Aranesp have and will adversely affect Amgen’s revenue,” Amgen Chief Executive Officer Kevin Sharer said in the statement. ”The initiatives announced today respond to that new reality.”

Aranesp, the company’s top-selling drug for anemia caused by cancer chemotherapy, generated worldwide sales of $949 million in the second quarter, down 10 percent from a year earlier.


Doubled the Staff

Amgen, founded in 1980, has doubled its staff since 2002 to about 20,000 employees worldwide as of March, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In addition to its headquarters, Amgen has 11 locations in the U.S. including research centers in South San Francisco, California; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Seattle.

”It doesn’t look like they’re cutting muscle or brawn, but trimming the fat around the edges,” said Geoffrey Porges, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein in New York, in an interview. ”It’s encouraging because it shows the company is committed to preserving earnings, cash flow and shareholder value.”

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services placed new restrictions on payment for Amgen’s anemia drugs on July 30. The Medicare agency, the U.S. health insurer for the elderly, said it would pay for the drugs if patients’ hemoglobin levels fell to less than 10 grams a deciliter, and stop paying at higher concentrations. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen in the blood.

The prescribing information approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the drugs can safely boost hemoglobin counts to 12 grams a deciliter.


’Without Rationale’

The new Medicare restrictions are ”without apparent clinical or policy rationale,” Amgen’s Sharer said in a conference call with analysts today. The limits are ”bad for patients” and will cause more people to get blood transfusions, he said.

Amgen may still face restrictions on its anemia drugs from regulators. An FDA advisory panel on cardiovascular and kidney medications plans to meet Sept. 11 to discuss the drugs’ safety risks.

In March, the FDA placed its strictest warning on the prescribing information for Epogen and Aranesp. The agency informed doctors about higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and death at high doses.

”The question is, is this the only shoe to drop and how much assurance do we or investors have that we won’t be faced with another revision of guidance at some future point?” said Michael King, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw in New York.



Anemia is a lack of oxygen-carrying red blood cells that produces muscle weakness and fatigue. The drugs made by Amgen are genetically engineered copies of erythropoietin, a protein made by the kidneys that increases the number of red blood cells. They are approved for patients with anemia caused by cancer chemotherapy, and for chronic kidney disease.

Aside from the anemia drugs, Amgen makes Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis, and Neulasta and Neupogen for restoring white blood cells in cancer patients.

”They have 20,000 full-time employees and four drugs” that generate significant sales, Rodman & Renshaw’s King said in a telephone interview. ”I feel bad for the 2,200 employees that get laid off but I don’t think life at Amgen is going to change that much.”

                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------


SOURCE: Bloomberg, USA

AUTHOR: Brian McGee & Antonio Ligi


DATE:   26.07.2007

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July 26 (Bloomberg) -- Syngenta AG, the world’s biggest maker of agricultural chemicals, said first-half profit advanced 27 percent, helped by insecticide sales in Europe and Latin America and higher demand for new strains of corn seed.

Net income rose to $1.22 billion, or $12.43 a share, from $961 million, or $9.51, a year earlier, Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta said in a statement today. Analysts estimated a profit of $1.05 billion. Sales rose 9.4 percent to $5.69 billion.

Rising demand for crop protection to fight weeds, fungal diseases and pests boosted orders. Revenue from seeds was lifted by increasing use of corn for ethanol production to replace gasoline. The Swiss company plans to save $350 million annually by 2011 after completing a $425 million cost-cutting program.

”The results are very good,” said Heinz Mueller, an analyst at DZ Bank AG in Frankfurt with a ”buy” rating on the stock. ”Syngenta should benefit from increasing corn production, especially in crop protection. In Latin America, corn and sugar beet are also expanding. That’s very positive.”

Shares of Syngenta, which was formed in 2000 from the merger of the farm-chemical units of Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG and the U.K.’s AstraZeneca Plc, were trading little changed at 9:42 a.m. in Zurich. The stock has added 2.6 percent this year for a market value of 24 billion Swiss francs ($20 billion).


Target Raised

”The outlook for agriculture is very positive,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Pragnell, who will step down at the end of the year, said in an interview. ”Crop protection increased sales in all regions and across all product lines, with notable performances in Europe and Latin America.”

Pragnell increased his target for annual growth in per- share earnings to the ”mid-teens” from a previous goal of at least 10 percent set in February. Sales from crop protection products rose 7 percent, with a 4 percent gain at the seed unit.

DZ Bank’s Mueller, who had previously envisaged 12 percent growth in full-year earnings per share, said he will now upgrade his estimates.

Syngenta generates almost 80 percent of sales from crop- protection products such as Karate and Callisto, as well as other fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. The importance of the northern hemisphere’s growing season means the company tends to do two-thirds of its business in the first half.


Rootworm-Resistant Corn

Syngenta’s share price has tripled under Pragnell’s tenure as he expands from insecticides and pesticides to gene-modified seeds. He’s also channeling funds into products including a rootworm-resistant genetically modified corn. Mike Mack, chief operating officer of the seeds unit, will succeed Pragnell.

Syngenta, the third-biggest producer of seeds, is stepping up its challenge to market leader Monsanto Co., forming a venture with DuPont Co. to license corn and soybean genetics to North American seed makers. Seed companies are benefiting from increasing demand for corn to make ethanol as crude oil trades above $70 a barrel.

St-Louis-based Monsanto has a 32 percent market share, including fees from other seed producers for licensing its genetic technology. DuPont, based in Delaware, controls 22 percent and Syngenta 14 percent.

Syngenta Chief Financial Officer Domenico Scala last week quit to become CEO at a company that hasn’t been identified. He will be replaced by financial controller John Ramsay.



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