By Tamara Mathias and Michael Erman
(Reuters) – Eli Lilly and Co said on Tuesday it would take its Elanco animal health business public and posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by demand for its diabetes drugs Trulicity and Humalog.
Lilly also said it would not increase its drug prices through the end of the year, following similar moves by Pfizer Inc, Merck & Co Inc and Novartis AG, as the Trump Administration pushes to cut costs for patients.
Shares of the company rose as much as 2.6 percent to a near three-year high of $91.20.
“We remain focused on driving revenue growth through volume, not price,” Chief Executive David Ricks said on a conference call.
But the move may not be seen by some as having a wider impact.
“Looks to me like Lilly’s statement means nothing. They haven’t raised prices during the summer or fall months in the past several years,” said Michael Rea, CEO of Rx Savings Solutions, whose software helps health plans and others save money on prescription drugs.
The Indiana-based drugmaker raised its full-year profit forecast to $5.40 to $5.50 per share from $5.10 to $5.20 per share, and said the forecast did not assume U.S. price increases for the rest of the year.
ANIMAL HEALTH IPO
Lilly’s decision to take Elanco public marks the end of a nine-month review that weighed options for the unit, which could have a valuation of several billion dollars following the IPO.
Lilly plans to offer less than 20 percent of Elanco, which brought in sales of $792.1 million in the quarter, and debut it on the public market in the second half of 2018.
The market value of top animal-health company Zoetis Inc has nearly tripled since Pfizer listed it about five years ago, an example that analysts have noted in light of Lilly’s decision for Elanco.
“Given Zoetis’ high valuation, (the Elanco IPO) is a smart move,” BMO Capital Markets analyst Alex Arfaei said. “We estimate that Elanco is worth about $13 billion.”
Excluding items, Lilly earned $1.50 per share in the second quarter, ahead of analysts’ average estimate of $1.30 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Lilly’s drug Trulicity had sales of $779.8 million, above analysts’ estimates of $712.67 million, and overtaking Humalog as its best-selling drug. Humalog recorded revenue of $769.8 million, beating expectations of $683.67 million.
The company also announced a $8 billion share buyback program.
(Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Supriya Kurane and Sweta Singh)