Roche confirms 2020 sales, profit outlook as coronavirus boosts test demandRoche confirms 2020 sales, profit outlook as coronavirus boosts test demand
FILE PHOTO: Logo of Swiss drugmaker Roche is seen at its headquarters in Basel

ZURICH (Reuters) – Roche’s diagnostic business has moved out of the shadows of its main medicines unit during the coronavirus epidemic, as the Swiss drugmaker confirmed its 2020 sales and profit outlook amid rising demand for its new COVID-19 tests.

Basel-based Roche still expects full-year sales to grow in the low- to mid-single-digit percentage range, with core earnings per share growing broadly in line with sales at constant exchange rates, the company said on Wednesday.

Group sales in the first-quarter rose 7% to 15.1 billion Swiss francs ($15.57 billion), with drugs business revenue up 7% and diagnostics rising 5% at constant exchange rates. The strong Swiss franc, which the company uses to report results, ate into revenue it earned abroad.

Roche received emergency use authorisation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March for its automated coronavirus tests used in hundreds of labs around the world. Roche is also seeking approval for a so-called antibody test, to help tell if people have ever been infected.

While routine testing decreased due to a decline in regular health checks, it said, emergency and COVID-19 testing strongly increased. The business area Molecular Diagnostics, including testing, saw sales rise 29%.

“With healthcare needs remaining high, Roche’s business has so far proved to be resilient in this difficult environment,” Chief Executive Severin Schwan said in a statement.

Roche said demand for its newer medicines including cancer immunotherapy Tecentriq, multiple sclerosis medicine Ocrevus and haemophilia drug Hemlibra more than compensated for sales erosion of its older cancer drugs that are now under siege from copies — so-called biosimilars — made by rivals.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)