NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Bristol-Myers Squibb Co on Thursday posted better-than-expected third quarter profit and raised its full-year earnings forecast on strong demand for its cancer immunotherapy drugs.
Net earnings rose to $1.9 billion, or $1.16 per share, in the quarter, from $845 million, or 51 cents a share, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time items, the U.S. drugmaker said it earned $1.09 a share. Analysts, on average, were expecting 91 cents, according to Refinitiv estimates.
Revenues rose 8 percent to $5.69 billion, just shy of Wall Street estimates of $5.72 billion.
The company raised its forecast for full-year earnings to a range of $3.80 to $3.90 per share, up from its previous range of $3.55 to $3.65 a share. That puts the midrange above analysts' previous estimate of $3.64 per share for 2018.
Bristol-Myers pioneered cancer immunotherapy with its Yervoy and later Opdivo. But Merck & Co's rival treatment Keytruda has taken a dominant position in lung cancer - the most lucrative oncology market - and Bristol-Myers' shares have suffered.
The company's shares are down 20 percent so far this year, while Merck's shares are up 25 percent.
Still, Opdivo and Yervoy both outperformed analyst expectations for the quarter, bringing in revenue of $1.79 billion and $382 million, respectively. Analysts had expected Opdivo sales of $1.69 billion and about $326 million for Yervoy.
Sales of blood thinner Eliquis rose 28 percent from last year to $1.58 billion, but fell short of analyst expectations of $1.67 billion. Sales of the drug used to prevent blood clots also fell from $1.65 billion in the previous quarter.
Pfizer Inc is a partner on Eliquis sales.
Bristol-Myers' effective tax rate was 11.8 percent in the quarter. It now expects a full-year adjusted tax rate of 17 percent, at the bottom end of its previous forecast. (Reporting by Michael Erman Editing by Bill Berkrot)