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Elan reports first full-year operating profit in 10 years

IRISH pharmaceutical firm Elan has reported its first full-year operating profit in a decade and predicted that adjusted earnings in the current financial year could accelerate by 20pc as reduced overheads and growing revenue boost its figures.

Releasing fourth-quarter and full-year results yesterday, Elan said it had generated a $73m (€53.4m) operating profit last year, versus a $10m operating loss the previous year.

The company, in which drugs giant Johnson & Johnson has just over an 18pc stake, had predicted last year that it would turn an operating profit for 2010.

Chief financial officer Shane Cooke said yesterday that he expects operating profit in Elan's core biotechnology unit to rise 50pc "if not more" this year, from $63m (€46m) last year.

Revenue for the period rose 5pc to $1.17bn (€856m) as its share of sales from its flagship Tysabri multiple sclerosis treatment jumped 18pc, from $724m to $851.5m (€622.2m).

Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation climbed 73pc to $167m (€122.2m), with Elan predicting the figure will rise 20pc this year to $200m. Long-term debt was cut 17pc to $1.28bn (€935m). But the veneer was dulled as Elan's net loss for 2010 rose to $323m (€236m), as it shouldered the cost of a $206.3m settlement late last year that related to the sale of an epilepsy treatment it used to own called Zonegran.

Elan, which spent much of last year battling activist investors, admitted to illegally encouraging doctors to prescribe the drug for other ailments at the beginning of the last decade.

Elan chief executive Kelly Martin, who is due to step down from the role next year, said yesterday that 2010 had been "important" for the company.

"We remain extremely focused and committed and constructive about all that's happening for Tysabri in 2011," he said.

At the end of December a total of almost 57,000 patients around the world were using Tysabri. The company and US-based Biogen-Idec, Elan's partner on Tysabri, has been developing a blood test that will help to determine patients' increased susceptibility to contracting a life-threatening brain disease that has been connected with prolonged use of the treatment.

Analyst Jack Gorman at Davy said the results were better than expected and despite increased competition to Tysabri, product growth has remained "resilient" to date.

Elan closed up 1.9pc in Dublin at €5.16.

Irish Independent