* Q1 underlying EPS 76 cents vs forecast 59 cents
* Keeps full-year guidance
* Shares jump almost 20% (Adds CEO comments on migraine drug, contract extension)
By Tova Cohen and Steven Scheer
TEL AVIV, May 7 (Reuters) - Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries beat first-quarter profit forecasts on Thursday, boosted by stronger demand for generic and over-the-counter drugs and respiratory treatments.
Shares in the world’s largest generic drugmaker closed nearly 20% higher in Tel Aviv trade and were up 11% in New York after the company also reaffirmed its 2020 outlook, despite disruption to the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Executive Kare Schultz — who in March extended his contract by a year to 2023 — said all facilities remained open and no jobs had been cut due to the crisis. There was a risk of slower uptake to new products due to the pandemic, though “we haven’t seen it yet,” he told a conference call.
Chief Financial Officer Eli Kalif said the largest impact from the pandemic would be felt in the second quarter.
Teva earned 76 cents per diluted share excluding one-time items in January-March, up from 60 cents a year earlier. Revenue rose 5% to $4.4 billion.
The company said profits rose in Europe, North America and other international markets, while economic hedging activities as well as lower operating expenses mainly related to the travel restrictions stemming from the pandemic also boosted profit.
Analysts had forecast Teva would earn 59 cents a share ex-items on revenue of $4.15 billion, according to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv.
Higher revenue and profit contributed to strong free cash flow and a reduction of $600 million in net debt to $24.3 billion compared with the fourth quarter, Schultz said.
Teva is looking to two branded drugs - Ajovy and Austedo - to boost revenue and help pay down its debt, which soared after it paid more than $40 billion in 2016 to buy Allergan’s generic drugs business.
North American sales of migraine treatment Ajovy rose 44% to $29 million, while sales of Austedo for Huntington’s disease jumped 64% to $122 million.
Schultz said Ajovy’s share of the U.S. market had declined to 15% from 25% due to a delay in gaining approval for an autoinjector, which rival products have. He was confident of a recovery now that Teva had launched its autoinjector.
“I believe we can get back to that 25% rate by the end of this year,” he told Reuters.
North American sales of multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone fell 5% to $198 million due to generic competition.
In Europe, sales of respiratory products rose 16% to $106 million mainly due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Teva reaffirmed its 2020 forecast for adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $2.30-$2.55 and revenue of $16.6-$17.0 billion. Analysts are forecasting EPS of $2.44 on revenue of $16.7 billion. (Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Nick Tattersall)