April 24, 2020 / 1:47 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Finnish drugmaker Orion raises profit view as coronavirus lifts demand

(Adds details, background, shares)

Helsinki, April 24 (Reuters) - Finnish drugmaker Orion raised its 2020 operating profit forecast on Friday, helped by strong demand for drugs including a sedative and a respiratory treatment due to coronavirus pandemic.

The company said it now expected full-year operating profit would be similar to last year’s 253 million euros ($273 million), instead of lower, as previously assumed.

The coronavirus outbreak boosted demand towards the end of the first quarter, leading to higher than expected sales and operating profit in the three month period, Orion said.

“This was partly due to product hoarding and stockpiling and partly to an increase in actual demand for products,” it added.

Its first quarter preliminary net sales were 280 million euros, while preliminary operating profit was 84 million euros.

At 1310 GMT, Orion shares were up 4.7% at 47.52 euros.

The company forecast higher sales related to the pandemic for some of its products would level off during the year, while generic product sales would decline from the previous year due to weaker than normal availability.

Reuters exclusively reported earlier this month that Amneal Pharmaceuticals, a client of Orion and its subsidiary Fermion, could soon run out of the ingredients used to make anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which has also been touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Orion has said it is unable ship the drug and its ingredients because Finland is keeping them for domestic use, and because securing its own raw materials from abroad has been challenging.

On Friday, Orion said it expected sales of its Dexdor drug, a sedative used for adult patients in intensive care, and Easyhaler, a treatment chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, to exceed previous estimates this year.

It added its new guidance was based on the assumption its own production could continue normally, despite the pandemic.

Orion will publish its first quarter results on Tuesday.

$1 = 0.9259 euros Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter

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