* Teva seeks growth markets, complex generics, specialty drugs
* Q4 adjusted EPS $1.31, in line with expectations
* Teva plans 7 drug launches in 2015 (Recasts on CEO comments, analyst’s quotes)
By Tova Cohen
TEL AVIV, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is ready to return to making acquisitions, it said on Thursday, after a year of focusing on costs under its new chief executive.
The world’s largest generic drugmaker brought in turnaround specialist Erez Vigodman last February to cut costs and improve profit that had been squeezed by rising competition.
Vigodman’s focus last year was getting Teva’s house in order, he said in a conference call after reporting fourth-quarter profit that met analysts’ expectations and reaffirming its 2015 earnings forecast.
“In 2015 we are reorienting towards inorganic moves,” he said, noting that the company is interested in growth markets, hard-to-produce products, complex generics and speciality branded products, having reduced Teva’s debt by about $2 billion last year.
Teva, Israel’s biggest company, plans to launch seven products in 2015 generating $400 million of new revenue and will submit four products for regulatory approval, he added.
The company posted fourth-quarter earnings of $1.31 per diluted share, excluding one-time items, against $1.42 a year earlier. Revenue fell to $5.17 billion from $5.43 billion.
Teva was forecast to earn $1.31 a share on revenue of $5.16 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Shares in the New York-listed company were up 2.3 percent at $57.77 by 1508 GMT.
Global sales of its best-selling multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which accounts for about 20 percent of sales and 50 percent of profit, fell 2 percent to $1.1 billion.
Wells Fargo analyst Michael Faerm said it was a mixed quarter with a strong gross margin and better than expected Copaxone revenue. However, he said that weaker generics revenue outside of Europe and the United States, plus higher than expected expenses, “are of some concern and should be monitored going forward”.
Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in December that Teva can still benefit from patent protection for Copaxone until September 2015, the injectable drug faces competition from oral treatments as well as cheaper generics in the coming years.
Two teams are developing generic forms of Copaxone: one involving Novartis’s Sandoz unit and Momenta Pharmaceuticals, the other involving Mylan Inc and Natco Pharma.
Teva reiterated its December forecast for 2015 diluted earnings per share, excluding one-off items, of $5 to $5.30 on revenue of $19 billion to $19.4 billion.
The company also declared a quarterly dividend of 1.33 shekels (34 cents) a share, up from 1.21 in the third quarter. (Additional reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Mark Potter and David Goodman)