Novo Nordisk lifts guidance as Q1 sales beat forecasts, led by Ozempic, Rybelsus

Headline results for the first quarter:

  • Revenue: DKK 33.8 billion ($5.4 billion; forecasts of DKK 32.5 billion), flat versus the prior year
  • Profit: DKK 12.6 billion ($2 billion), up 6%

Note: All changes are versus the prior-year period unless otherwise stated

What the company said:

"We are very encouraged with the sales growth in the first three months of 2021," remarked CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, with Novo Nordisk noting that revenue increased 7% on a constant exchange rate (CER) basis.

Sales were still impacted by the effect of patients and wholesalers stocking up on drugs last year in preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic, but Novo Nordisk said inventory changes and the timing of shipments had offset that in the first quarter. "Growth was driven by all therapy areas and across geographical areas," Jørgensen noted, adding that "growth has accelerated in the US."

Other results:   

  • Diabetes segment: DKK 27.3 billion ($4.4 billion), up 1%
    • Ozempic: DKK 6.7 billion ($1.1 billion), up 40%, led by growth in North America and international markets
    • Victoza: DKK 3.9 billion ($630 million), down 22%, with declines in North America and Europe partially offset by higher sales in China
    • Tresiba: DKK 2.4 billion ($387 million), down 4%
    • Levemir: DKK 1.8 billion ($291 million), down 13%
    • Rybelsus: DKK 729 million ($118 million), up 218%, driven by growth in North America and Europe, with the product now launched in 15 countries
  • Saxenda: DKK 1.6 billion ($258 million), down 2%
  • Biopharmaceuticals: DKK 5 billion ($807 million), down 6%       
    • NovoSeven: DKK 2 billion ($323 million), down 9%, with declining sales in China partially offset by growth in Europe

Looking ahead:

Novo Nordisk expects sales this year to grow between 6% and 10% on a CER basis, with both ends of the guidance lifted by 1 percentage point from a previous estimate. Meanwhile, operating profit is forecast to increase in the range of 5% to 9% at CER, with both ends of the outlook also lifted by 1 percentage point.

The company explained that the revised guidance reflects expectations for sales growth within its diabetes unit, mainly driven by the GLP-1 products Ozempic and Rybelsus, as well as growth for Saxenda.

What analysts said:

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

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