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Novartis Q4 Revenues Increase 4 Percent Bolstered by Oncology Drug Sales

NEW YORK – Novartis on Wednesday reported a 4 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2021, highlighting drug sales in the oncology business unit as a significant contributor.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis reported $13.23 billion in revenues compared to $12.77 billion in Q4 2020 but fell short of analysts' consensus estimate of $13.31 billion. Sales within the firm's oncology business unit grew nearly 3 percent, reaching $3.9 billion in Q4 2021 compared to $3.8 billion in the prior-year quarter.

On a conference call Wednesday to discuss the financials, Susanne Schaffert, head of Novartis Oncology, pointed out that the revenue-driving therapies in the oncology portfolio account for over half of Novartis' overall pharmaceutical sales.

The firm saw particularly strong growth for its CDK4/6 inhibitor ribociclib (Kisqali), which contributed $285 million in Q4 2021 sales, marking a 55 percent increase from $184 million in the prior year's quarter. Schaffert attributed the sales growth to broader penetration of the drug in the first-line, post-menopausal hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer market.

Sales of the BRAF- and MEK-inhibiting agents dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and trametinib (Mekinist) also grew 12 percent in Q4 2021 to $458 million from $408 million in Q4 2020. "Tafinlar-Mekinist continues to sustain leadership in metastatic melanoma as the most used worldwide targeted therapy in this setting," Schaffert said.

Sales of the autologous CAR T-cell therapy tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah; tisa-cel) were $143 million in Q4 2021, marking 1 percent growth from $141 million the prior year.

Novartis' net income in Q4 2021 was $16.31 billion, or $7.29 per share, compared to $2.10 billion in the year-ago quarter, or $.92 per share. Novartis CFO Harry Kirsch attributed this income to the company selling its stake in Roche during this quarter, which resulted in a one-time divestment gain of $14.6 billion. Setting aside the Roche divestment, Novartis' net income for Q4 2021 was $1.73 billion, or $.78 per share.

The firm's core EPS for the fourth quarter was $1.40 per share, in line with analysts' consensus expectations.

For the full year in 2021, Novartis reported net sales of $51.63 billion, a 6 percent increase from $48.66 billion in 2020. Revenues in the oncology segment grew 5 percent to $15.5 billion in 2021 compared to $14.7 billion in 2020.

In 2021, ribociclib sales were $937 million, up 36 percent from $687 million in 2020. Dabrafenib-trametinib brought in $1.69 billion in 2021, a 10 percent increase compared to $1.54 billion in 2020. Tisa-cel revenues increased 24 percent in 2021 to $587 million compared to $474 million in 2020.

The company's net income was $24.02 billion, or $10.71 per share, versus $8.07 billion, or $3.55 per share, during the full year of 2020. Again, minus the impact of the Roche divestment, the full-year net income was $9.45 billion, or $4.21 per share. Novartis' full-year core EPS was $6.29, short of analysts' consensus estimates of $6.33 per share.

For the full year in 2022, Novartis is expecting sales growth in the mid-single digits, assuming the global healthcare landscape continues to return to normal after the pandemic.