UCB will publish its 1H11 results on Friday morning July 29, followed by an analyst conference call at 2.00pm CEST. We lifted our target price to € 32/share (from € 31) but maintain Hold rating.
We expect a solid first-half top-line, driven by delayed generic competition for Keppra in Europe and a continued ramp-up of the core CVN product franchise. We see net 1H11 product sales increasing by 4%, prompting us to upgrade our FY11 revenue estimate by 3% and core EPS by 2%. Our 1H11 top-line estimate is about 4% higher than consensus but net profit is 2% below consensus.
1H11 Revenues: € 1.69bn (+3%), of which net product sales € 1.49bn (+4%). Keppra franchise € 479m (+4% yoy, 32% of product sales), CVN € 300m (+69% yoy, 20% of product sales versus 12% in 1H10)
1H11 Profitability: REBIT € 257m, REBITDA € 383m, both -4% yoy following higher R&D costs and strong sales & marketing cost control in 1H10. Core EPS of € 1.03/sh (-20 yoy, consensus at € 1.05)
Financial guidance: Good 1H11 numbers may prompt a narrowing of guidance towards the higher ends of the previously-defined ranges, especially with respect to the top-line. However, product sales outperformance may allow the company to accelerate its R&D and marketing investments, thereby flattening the impact on the bottom-line.
Attention points: i. CVN and Keppra sales, ii. Upgrade of FY11financial guidance, iii. Updates/results on mid/late stage product pipeline (epratuzumab, brivaracetam, anti-sclerostin)
The uplift in FY11 earnings raises our DCF-derived target price to € 32 per share (from € 31), but we maintain our Hold rating. Indeed, at current trading levels, we believe the market is pricing UCB at fair value. Moreover, since the rally in May, UCB’s share has been able to withstand the market turmoil, resulting in a year-to-date outperformance of 30% versus general indices and a substantial premium versus peers. In 2H11, the full generic erosion of Keppra EU will be visible and together with the higher R&D costs versus FY10, we expect net earnings to drop year on year. We see steady earnings growth from FY12.