* Expects 2017 revenue of $21.8 bln-$22.3 bln
* Expects 2017 adjusted EPS of $4.05-$4.15
* Shares jump 4.4 percent (Adds analyst, company comment, background; updates shares)
By Bill Berkrot and Ankur Banerjee
Dec 15 (Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co, in a move that appeared to ease investor concerns after the failure of its high-profile Alzheimer’s drug, on Thursday provided a 2017 forecast above Wall Street estimates and expressed confidence in recently launched products and those in development.
The company had been expected to provide its 2017 outlook in early January. It moved up the announcement following profound investor disappointment last month, when the Alzheimer’s drug solanezumab failed to slow mental declines of patients with even mild symptoms, dashing most hopes for a treatment that, if successful, would have been a multibillion-dollar seller.
Lilly shares were up 4.4 percent at $70.64.
“We are encouraged by Lilly’s 2017 financial guidance,” Leerink Partners analyst Seamus Fernandez said in a research note. “Additionally, management confirmed its commitment to achieve an operating expense-to-revenue ratio of 50 percent or less in 2018, along with annual dividend increases.”
Lilly said last month it would take a $150 million charge in the fourth quarter of 2016 for the failed Alzheimer’s trial.
“As we move past the negative solanezumab data read-out, Lilly’s innovation-based strategy is generating strong momentum in multiple therapeutic areas,” said David Ricks, set to become chief executive on Jan. 1, in a statement.
On an analyst call, Ricks said Lilly was undeterred in its efforts to develop an effective treatment for the devastating disease that affects millions of people. Lilly did say it would halt development of one Alzheimer’s candidate seen as similar to solanezumab.
The company said it could potentially launch at least 20 new drugs between 2014 and 2023, including baricitinib for rheumatoid arthritis.
Ricks also told analysts that Lilly was “very interested” in deals that would add to its developmental pipeline in core therapeutic areas.
The incoming CEO said Lilly expects strong demand for newer products, such as lung cancer drug Cyramza, Taltz for psoriasis, and diabetes treatment Trulicity.
Jardiance, another Type 2 diabetes treatment, is expected to get a boost after U.S. regulators this month said Lilly could promote its ability to reduce the risk of death in patients with cardiovascular disease, as demonstrated in a large clinical trial. The American Diabetes Association will likely add a recommendation for use of Jardiance in heart patients in new treatment guidelines later on Thursday.
Lilly sells its diabetes drugs in partnership with German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim.
Lilly forecast 2017 revenue of $21.8 billion to $22.3 billion and adjusted earnings of $4.05 to $4.15 per share. Analysts on average had estimated revenue of $21.67 billion and earnings of $3.97 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company reaffirmed its forecast for annual revenue growth of at least 5 percent between 2015 and 2020.
In addition to increased sales, Lilly said it would achieve long-term targets through operating expense management.
Lilly maintained its adjusted 2016 earnings forecast of $3.50 to $3.60 per share, but lowered its net outlook to $2.57 to $2.67 from $2.66 to $2.76, in part due to the cost of the Alzheimer’s failure. (Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D‘Couto and Meredith Mazzilli)