April 22, 2014 2:00 am JST

Astellas' operating profit seen up 14% in fiscal 2013

TOKYO -- Astellas Pharma Inc.'s operating profit likely grew 14% in the year ended March 31 as sales of its Xtandi prostate cancer treatment jumped in the U.S.

     The drugmaker also saw its profitability improve in Japan, helping it achieve a third straight year of operating profit gains.

     Under Japanese accounting standards, group operating profit is seen coming in at around 175 billion yen ($1.68 billion), compared with a company estimate of 170 billion yen.

     Sales likely beat its forecast of a 15% increase to 1.15 trillion yen, driven by growth in America. Sales of Xtandi more than tripled to over 40 billion yen. Vesicare, Betanis and other treatments for overactive bladders also generated higher revenue.

     Buoyed by a weak yen, Astellas also saw top-line growth in Europe, where it released Xtandi last year.

     Japanese sales were flat. Pfizer's Lipitor cholesterol drug, which Astellas sells in Japan, struggled against generic competitors. But Betanis and other drugs from Astellas' own pipeline picked up some of the slack, boosting profitability.

     Although a weak yen raised the cost of overseas research and development, efficiency gains curbed spending at home. Higher revenue absorbed increases in sales staff costs in China and other markets.

     Astellas has voluntarily adopted international financial reporting standards, which it will use when it announces last fiscal year's earnings next month.

     The company is likely to see continued growth in revenue and profit this fiscal year. The release of Xtandi in Japan should help offset any revenue loss from changes to government-mandated drug prices. Its U.S. and European business is expected to remain healthy.

     Astellas' operating profit slumped following the expiration of U.S. patents protection on big-selling drugs in 2008 and 2009 but began rebounding after fiscal 2010, thanks to new earners.