NEW YORK, Oct 31 (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co reported higher-than-expected third-quarter profit on Thursday, helped by strong sales of blood thinner Eliquis, even as growth of its blockbuster cancer treatment Opdivo slowed.
Bristol-Myers, which is set to buy biotechnology company Celgene Corp for $74 billion later this year, posted net earnings of $1.35 billion, or 83 cents a share, in the quarter, down from $1.9 billion, or $1.16 a share, last year.
Excluding one-time items, the company said it earned $1.17 a share, exceeding analysts' expectations of $1.07 a share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
The company raised both ends of its full-year adjusted earnings forecast range by 5 cents and now expects a profit of $4.25 to $4.35 per share. Analysts had been estimating the company will earn $4.28 a share in 2019.
Sales of cancer immunotherapy Opdivo rose only 1% from a year ago to $1.82 billion, roughly in-line with Wall Street expectations. Once viewed as the company's most important growth driver, Opdivo sales have hovered around $1.8 billion a quarter for the past four quarters.
Meanwhile, Merck & Co's rival drug Keytruda brought in nearly $3.2 billion in the third quarter, up 67% from the previous year.
There has been widespread investor concern over the dominance of Keytruda, as it has become the go to treatment for newly diagnosed advanced lung cancer, the most lucrative oncology market. Bristol-Myers is hoping recent positive results in two clinical trials will help improve Opdivo's position in lung cancer.
Eliquis, which Bristol shares with Pfizer Inc, continues to be a bright spot. Its sales rose 22% to $1.93 billion, while analysts were estimating $1.85 billion.
Sales of rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia and leukemia treatment Sprycel also were stronger than analysts had forecast.
Revenue in the quarter rose 6% from a year ago to $6 billion, also topping Wall Street expectations of $5.89 billion.
Bristol-Myers shares closed up 2% at $56.87 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. (Reporting by Michael Erman Editing by Bill Berkrot)