Bristol Myers sees 2020 earnings holding despite coronavirus pandemicBristol Myers sees 2020 earnings holding despite coronavirus pandemic
Employees work on paracetamol production line for UPSA brand of Bristol-Myers Squibb Group at the company’s factory in Le Passage

By Michael Erman

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bristol Myers Squibb Co on Thursday reported better-than-expected first-quarter results, and said it still expects 2020 earnings within its previously forecast range despite the coronavirus pandemic that has savaged economies worldwide.

The U.S. drugmaker’s shares rose 2.3% to $62.50 before the bell.

The company shaved $500 million off its forecast for 2020 revenue, but lowered its projections for research and development expenses and marketing, selling and administrative costs.

Bristol said it expects the peak business disruption from the pandemic and the resulting national lockdowns to come in the second quarter, with minimal impact from the fourth quarter of the year onward.

Some U.S. drugmakers like Pfizer Inc and Eli Lilly and Co have also maintained or raised their 2020 profit forecasts. But Merck & Co Inc and Johnson & Johnson cut their forecasts for the year, as patients avoided non-emergency procedures and visits to doctors and hospitals, where some drugs must be administered.

Bristol said it had adjusted earnings of $3.96 billion, or $1.72 a share, in the first quarter on revenue of $10.8 billion. Analysts, on average, had expected the company to earn $1.49 a share on sales of $10.02 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company said it actually benefited from consumers stocking up on medicines in the quarter due to the pandemic, increasing its sales by around $500 million.

Sales of its blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis, which the company shares with Pfizer, were particularly strong, rising 37% from a year ago to $2.6 billion. Analysts had forecast sales of around $2.2 billion in the quarter.

Multiple myeloma treatment Revlimid, which Bristol acquired with its $74 billion buyout of Celgene, had sales of $2.9 billion for the quarter, topping analyst estimates of $2.8 billion.

The company posted a first-quarter net loss of $775 million or 34 cents a share. That includes expenses and other accounting adjustments associated with the Celgene acquisition that closed in November.

It said it still expects full-year earnings of $6 to $6.20 a share. It lowered its 2020 revenue forecast to $40 billion to $42 billion, shaving $500 million from both the top and bottom ends of the range. Analysts, on average, had forecast revenue of $41.6 billion.

(Reporting by Michael Erman, additional reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot)