There was good news the last time Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) reported its quarterly results. In February, the company announced higher revenue compared to the prior-year period. Adjusted earnings also increased nicely.

Alexion announced its first-quarter results before the market opened on Thursday. And like it did in the last quarter, the company had plenty of good news for investors this time around. Here are the highlights from the biotech's Q1 update.

Scientist holding a test tube with biotech icons in foreground.

Image source: Getty Images.

By the numbers

Alexion reported revenue in the first quarter of $1.14 billion. This reflected a 23% increase from the prior-year period revenue total of $931 million. The consensus among Wall Street analysts projected Q1 revenue of $1.13 billion.

The company announced GAAP net income of $587.9 million, or $2.61 per share, in the first quarter. This represented a 136% increase from earnings of $249.1 million, or $1.11 per share, reported in the same quarter of 2018.

Alexion's adjusted net income in the first quarter was $545.5 million, or $2.39 per share. This was an improvement of the biotech's result in the prior-year period, when it announced adjusted net income of $380.6 million, or $1.68 per share. It was also better than the consensus analysts' adjusted earnings estimate of $2.19 per share.

Behind the numbers

The main factor in Alexion's higher revenue was the performance for Soliris, one of the most expensive drugs in the world. Soliris sales rose 20% from the prior-year period to $962 million in the first quarter of 2019, primarily due to growth in the U.S.

The company also introduced a new drug to help adults with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), Ultomiris, which generated sales of $24.6 million in Q1. Alexion's other drugs, Strensiq and Kanuma, also enjoyed solid sales growth, with an 18% increase for Strensiq and an almost 20% increase for Kanuma.

Operating expenses were lower by 93%. When revenue increases and expenses decrease, it's the perfect recipe for earnings growth like Alexion achieved this quarter.

Other key developments for Alexion in the first quarter included:

  • Launched Ultomiris
  • Soliris was granted priority review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with an action date of June 28, 2019
  • Announced its new collaborations with Caelum Biosciences, Affibody, and Zealand Pharma

Looking ahead

Alexion expects that revenue for full-year 2019 will be between $4.68 billion and $4.75 billion compared to the previous guidance of $4.63 billion to $4.70 billion. The company also anticipates GAAP earnings per share (EPS) of $6.76 to $7.96, with adjusted non-GAAP EPS between $9.25 and $9.45.

CEO Ludwig Hantson was optimistic about his outlook for the rest of 2019. He stated that the company is looking forward to "continuing to build on our momentum as the year progresses, further growing our four durable franchises in hematology/nephrology, neurology, metabolics, and FcRn [neonatal Fc receptors]."