Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY ) turned in a solid third quarter today, but don't break out the champagne just yet. Besting the financial performance of most of the other motley bunch of large-cap pharmas isn't exactly a difficult feat.
Third-quarter sales rose 4.4% year over year, excluding exchange-rate movements. Phenomenal 49% sales growth in Sanofi's vaccine division more than made up for the continuing genericization of insomnia drug Ambien. Despite the invalidation of the patents protecting Sanofi's top drug, Lovenox, earlier in the year, the thrombosis treatment saw sales spike nearly 10% worldwide, thanks to a label expansion in the U.S. and strong growth in Europe.
Adjusted net income in dollars rose 19.5% versus last year, and non-GAAP earnings per share were $1.92 for the quarter. Sanofi also raised its guidance for full-year 2007 EPS growth by 100 basis points. However, this increased forecast depends entirely on the FDA's failure to approve any generic versions of Lovenox. That's a big unknown hanging over the drug, which raked in approximately $2.8 billion in sales through the first nine months of the year.
Sanofi and partner Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY ) were able to turn around sales of Plavix this quarter, thanks to a couple of favorable factors. A U.S. court stopped allowing generic versions of the drug on the market last year, and wholesalers' supplies of generic Plavix declined, boosting sales for the original drug.
As long as the FDA delays a judgment on the three generic Lovenox products, Sanofi's top-line growth is safe, since most of the impact from generic Ambien and Plavix is now past. Betting that the FDA won't approving one of the generic Lovenox products, respectively submitted by Teva Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: TEVA ) , Watson Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: WPI ) or Novartis (NYSE: NVS ) , is a little too risky for my tastes, though.
Absent this event and more results-draining declines in the dollar, shares of Sanofi are cheap, considering its $5.50 in EPS in the first nine months of the year. No wonder rumors have been swirling that Inside Value pick Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) wants to buy its own slice of Sanofi.