Roche Profit, Sales Slip Despite Coronavirus Test Blitz

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Swiss pharmaceutical group Roche, which has been at the forefront of deploying coronavirus tests and research into treatments, said Thursday its first half profit and sales both dipped as consumers put off treatment.

The appreciation of the Swiss franc, seen as a safe haven investment during times of trouble, also played a role as both profit and sales rose marginally when changes in exchange rates are stripped out.

Net profit slid by 5 percent from the same period last year to 8.5 billion Swiss francs ($9.1 billion, 7.9 billion euros) in the first six months of this year. At constant exchange rates it represents a gain of 3 percent.

Same story for sales, a 4 percent slide in overall sales in Swiss francs to 29.3 billion is a 1 percent gain at constant exchange rates.

The sales figure came in lower than the 30.2 billion consensus forecast of analysts surveyed by Swiss business news agency AWP.

“The uptake of our recently introduced (coronavirus) medicines and diagnostic tests continues to be strong,” said CEO Severin Schwan in the company’s earnings statement.

“At the same time, Roche’s regular business was significantly impacted by the pandemic in the second quarter.”

Thus, sales of its tests for novel coronavirus made a positive contribution, but the pandemic saw sales of other diagnostic equipment fall due to “delays of patients visiting physicians”, the company said.

Schwan said “we now see clear signs of recovery.”

The firm confirmed its outlook for the year, which is for a low- to mid-single digit rise in sales at constant exchange rates. It said core earnings per share are likely to increase in line with sales, and it aims to increase its dividend.

Roche shares shed 1.9 percent to 332.4 Swiss francs in early trading in a flat Swiss market.

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