(Adds investor comment, updates share price)
By Michael Erman
NEW YORK, July 25 (Reuters) - Bristol-Myers Squibb Co , which is set to buy biotechnology company Celgene Corp for $74 billion, posted better-than-expected second-quarter profit on Thursday on strong sales of blood thinner Eliquis and rheumatoid arthritis treatment Orencia.
Shares of the New York-based drugmaker were up 4.8% at $45.30 in afternoon trading.
The earnings follow mixed results released on Wednesday from a closely watched lung cancer trial of its blockbuster immunotherapy Opdivo in combination with either chemotherapy or its other immuno-oncology drug, Yervoy.
“While some of the drug data was disappointing, there was enough positivity for the combination of Opdivo and Yervoy that would suggest there is potential for that to gain share for a longer period of time,” said Jeremy Bryan, portfolio manager at Gradient Investments.
Sales of Eliquis, which Bristol-Myers shares with Pfizer Inc , rose 24% to $2.04 billion, while Orencia sales rose 9% to $778 million, both exceeding Wall Street expectations.
Opdivo sales rose 12% to $1.82 billion.
Despite the solid growth for Opdivo, there has been widespread investor concern over the dominance of rival drug Keytruda from Merck & Co in the lucrative lung cancer market. Keytruda has surpassed Opdivo in sales in recent quarters and the company said it expects additional pressure on Opdivo sales next year.
The latest lung cancer data is unlikely to allay those concerns.
Opdivo combined with chemotherapy failed to extend overall survival more than chemotherapy alone as an initial treatment for advanced non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Keytruda plus chemotherapy has demonstrated a survival benefit in clinical trials.
Opdivo did extend overall survival when used with Yervoy in certain NSCLC patients.
Some analysts and investors have suggested that one reason Bristol launched its bid for Celgene was over concerns about Opdivo losing ground to Keytruda.
Bristol said it still expects the Celgene deal to close in late 2019 or early 2020.
Excluding one-time items, the drugmaker said it earned $1.18 a share for the quarter, beating analysts’ expectations by 11 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Bristol-Myers increased its full-year profit forecast by 10 cents and now expects to earn $4.20 to $4.30 a share.
Revenue in the quarter was $6.27 billion, topping Wall Street expectations of $6.11 billion.
The company reported a net profit of $1.43 billion, or 87 cents a share, compared with $373 million, or 23 cents a share, a year earlier. (Reporting by Michael Erman, Additional reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Susan Thomas and Bill Berkrot)