GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) publishes its fourth quarter earnings, which indicate a significant profit rise well ahead of industry predictions, with momentum building in its product pipeline of new drugs giving the company the go-ahead to look into potential acquisitions.
Europe's largest drugmaker added fuel to fire with the admission that it would look at acquisitions for 2006 with Serono or Pfizer's consumer healthcare business being prime targets.
"We'll look at everything. We'll see if there's anything interesting at a reasonable price where we can accelerate our growth and benefit the shareholders in a very visible fashion," chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier told a post-results news conference.
"We'll consider them but we're not hooked on acquisitions," he added.
GSK has been linked to the biotechnology company when the company was put up for sale last year. Some reports claimed an offer of $11 billion (€9.1 billion) was on the cards.
Meanwhile, net income for the UK based company, increased to £1.12 billion pounds ($1.95 billion), or 19.6 pence a share, from £774 million, or 13.5 pence, a year earlier.
The company was expected to have profit of 1.08 billion pounds, the median estimate of analysts. Sales rose 13 per cent to 5.9 billion pounds.
Garnier, said the company was being conservative with its earnings guidance for this year and may surpass the 10 per cent figure if Glaxo got "lucky" on generic challenges to some products.
GSK's other priority remains the development of its product pipeline, which has been looking bare for the last two years. Glaxo plans to file for US regulatory approval for cancer drug Cervarix this year, which may be a potential $1 billion product for the company.
Indeed, the company's sales growth in the next two years will rely on a handful of new potential blockbusters, including Cervarix and cancer treatment Tykerb.
For the quarter ending December 31st 2005, sales of asthma treatment, Advair, rose to £851 million, despite reservations from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who did not recommend Advair as a first-choice treatment for fear that it might make asthma episodes more severe.
Avandia continues to maintain its momentum in the TZD class of anti-diabetic agents with sales for the quarter reaching £289 million - an increase of 26 per cent over 2004's performance.
The recently launched drug Avandamet also performed well, with sales for the quarter topping £46 million.
GSK said that it would submit its Cervarix data to the FDA by the end of the year and to European regulators in coming weeks. The HPV vaccine for cervical cancer will face stiff competition from Merck & Co and its Gardasil vaccine. The FDA has said that it will give Gardasil priority review meaning the product could be approved by June.
Both vaccines' mechanism of action trigger antibodies against the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer. According to the estimate of Merrill Lynch analyst Graham Parry, Cervarix sales may reach $1.4 billion by 2011.
GSK's activity in the bird flu market resulted in healthy sales of Relenza, which some governments are stockpiling as a tool to fight bird flu.
The company said it was talking with six possible partners to help increase production of the antiviral, which is one of only two medicines that have shown promise against the deadly virus.
As part of new product approvals/launches for 2006, the company expects 7 products to make progress for 2006. One of which is Rotarix, an oral vaccine for the prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants.
It received a positive opinion from the CHMP in December and EU launch is expected in Q2 2006.
GSK also launched Avandaryl (diabetes) in February 2006 and expects to launch several other key products during the year including Altabax (retapamulin for skin infections), Coreg CR (heart failure) and Trexima (migraine).