(Adds shares, quote background)
By Matthias Blamont
PARIS, April 28 (Reuters) - French drugmaker Sanofi's profit beat forecasts in the first quarter and confirmed its earnings outlook for the year, lifting its shares on Friday.
The results were buoyed by Sanofi's speciality care division Genzyme, as well as vaccines and consumer products it has acquired from Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim.
Earlier this year, Sanofi had warned investors it expected 2017 earnings per share to be stable or slightly lower after its fourth quarter results were affected by an increase in taxes and one-off charges.
The company had also said in 2015 it was not targeting any 'meaningful' profit growth for two years, citing difficulties in its embattled diabetes division.
"Although it has now some margin to deliver actual numbers above guidance, Sanofi also has reasons to wait a bit more before raising it. Diabetes is still a very uncertain market segment to work in," Bryan Garnier analysts said in a note.
However, Sanofi, whose shares were up more than 2 percent at 0805 GMT, said it was confident Dupixent, a drug for moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis that was approved in the United States at the end of last month, would sell well.
Analysts forecast annual Dupixent sales of more than $4 billion by 2022, according to Thomson Reuters data. Developed with Regeneron, the drug is seen as the most important growth driver for the two companies, who have said Dupixent will have a list price of $37,000 a year.
Sanofi Chief Executive Olivier Brandicourt told journalists that he was "very encouraged with the early coverage" of Dupixent, adding that "the launch is delivering so far exactly on our expectations".
While the price of Dupixent before discounts and rebates to insurers is far more expensive than topical medicines and steroids used to treat eczema, it is less expensive than other injectable antibody drugs for serious skin conditions, such as psoriasis, that list for about $50,000 a year.
Sanofi said on Friday first-quarter business net income rose 1 percent at constant exchange rates to 1.8 billion euros ($1.95 billion). Total sales rose 8.6 percent to 8.65 billion.
Analysts polled by Reuters in partnership with Inquiry Financial had on average been expecting business net profit of 1.6 billion euros and net sales of 8.38 billion.
Genzyme's sales were up 15.5 percent while revenue at the vaccines divisions rose 22.2 percent. Consumer healthcare products sales were up 42.7 percent.
Hurt by continued U.S. pricing pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular sales however suffered another downturn with revenue falling 7.7 percent. ($1 = 0.9203 euros) (Additional reporting by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Alexander Smith)