Don't Forget Roche

Since it's not publicly listed on the major U.S. stock exchanges, Roche (OTC BB: RHHBY.PK) never gets its fair share of attention as the largest biopharma (by market capitalization). Yesterday the Swiss-based drugmaker announced its full-year 2007 results.

It was a good year for Roche. Thanks to its majority ownership of Genentech (NYSE: DNA  ) and European marketing rights to Avastin and several other top Genentech drugs, Roche got to ride on the coattails of Genentech's success last year. In 2007, overall sales growth was 10% in local currencies for Roche, or 15% sales growth if you use the sickly dollar as your measuring stick. Net income was up 25% year over year.

The majority of Roche's sales ($34 billion worth) occurred in its pharmaceuticals and biopharma drugs division, which saw the launch of anemia drug Mircera in Europe. Mircera is set to compete against Amgen's (Nasdaq: AMGN  ) Epogen in Europe and also received marketing approval in the U.S., but its U.S. launch has been held up by patent litigation from Amgen.

For 2008, Roche expects its top- and bottom-line growth to slow as a result of "significantly" higher research and development spending, and also because of a "significant" slowdown in sales of flu treatment Tamiflu. Roche's forecast is for high single-digit percentage sales growth for the year and earnings per share "at least" equal to 2007's levels.

Roche has an excellent drug pipeline and is looking more and more like the undisputed leader in treating diseases like hepatitis C. It has a ton of promising early and mid-stage antiviral compounds, a huge presence in oncology because of Genentech, and even second-generation diabetes drugs like its GLP-1 analogue and DPP-IV inhibitor.

While it may be a pain for U.S. investors to buy shares of Roche on the Pink Sheets, Roche's rich pipeline makes for a long-term outlook that's anything but painful.


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