UPDATE 3-J&J shares hit new high on strong drug sales, weaker dollar
(Adds CFO comments, Remicade details)
By Ransdell Pierson
April 19 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson beat quarterly earnings forecasts on strong prescription drug revenue and a weakening dollar, and it reassured investors that it did not expect its blockbuster Remicade arthritis drug to face U.S. competition this year.
The company also said on Tuesday that it remained on track to boost profit margins significantly this year, in part from cost cuts.
In a possibly encouraging signal for other drugmakers that will be reporting results in coming weeks, J&J said the strong dollar took a 3.3 percent bite out of global sales in the first quarter - half the impact in the prior period - as the currency's value eased somewhat.
J&J shares rose as much as 2.7 percent to an all-time high of $113.95. The ARCA Pharmaceutical Index of large drugmakers was up 0.6 percent, outpacing slight gains for the broad stock market.
Until this year, J&J shares had underperformed the healthcare sector every year since 2009 as the company grappled with patent expirations on important drugs and a slew of product recalls and manufacturing setbacks for its consumer division.
But J&J has recently introduced a number of fast-growing medicines. Pharmaceutical sales rose 5.9 percent to $8.2 billion in the first quarter, with increased demand for the Imbruvica cancer drug and Invokana diabetes treatment.
Sales of Remicade, J&J's biggest product, jumped 11.2 percent to $1.78 billion. But investors have been concerned it could be hurt by Inflectra, a cheaper version developed by South Korea's Celltrion Inc in partnership with Pfizer Inc . U.S. regulators approved Inflectra earlier this month, but a continuing patent battle between J&J and Celltrion has delayed its introduction. Continuación...