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Novo Nordisk lifts guidance after first quarter beats expectations

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Nikolaj Skydsgaard
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Danish multinational pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk is pictured on the facade of a production plant in Chartres
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By Nikolaj Skydsgaard

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark's Novo Nordisk raised its sales and profit forecasts on Wednesday after beating first-quarter earnings expectations, lifting shares in the world's biggest maker of diabetes drugs.

Sales were still hit by the effect of patients and wholesalers stocking up on drugs last year in preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic, Novo said, but inventory changes and the timing of shipments had offset that in the first quarter.

"We are very encouraged with the sales growth in the first three months of 2021," Chief Executive Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen said.

Novo Nordisk now expects sales growth in local currencies this year to come in at between 6% and 10%, up from a previous forecast of 5% to 9%, and operating profit growth in local currencies in the range of 5% to 9%, up from an earlier estimate of 4% to 8%.

Shares in Novo Nordisk traded up 1.82% at 0753 GMT.

Sales in local currencies rose 7% in the first quarter to 33.8 billion Danish crowns ($5.46 billion), above a forecast of 32.5 billion in a Refinitiv poll, while operating profit came in at 14.98 billion Danish crowns, beating analysts' expectations for 14.6 billion.

"It's a strong start to the year," Sydbank analyst Soren Lontoft Hansen told Reuters.

By volume Novo Nordisk is the world's biggest insulin provider, but an increasingly competitive global insulin market means it aims to sell more of its newer drugs, many of which are used to treat type 2 diabetes.

Revenues were driven by a 13% rise in sales of its GLP-1 products, which imitate an intestinal hormone that stimulates insulin production, offsetting a 7% overall drop in insulin sales.

Sales of its recently launched once-daily diabetes pill Rybelsus grew 247% to 729 million crowns, which Hansen said lagged expectations as the pandemic had made it difficult for Novo to promote the drug to physicians.

"As the U.S. is gradually coming out of a lockdown... we are very optimistic that we'll stay on a very positive trajectory for Rybelsus," Chief Executive Jorgensen told a media briefing.

($1 = 6.1881 Danish crowns)

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; Editing by Richard Pullin and Jan Harvey)