January 31, 2019 / 6:48 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Roche sees 2019 sales, profit rise despite competition from copies

(Adds comment from CEO, details about growth targets)

By John Miller

ZURICH, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche expects sales and earnings to rise in 2019, Chief Executive Severin Schwan said on Thursday, even as more copies of the company's $22 billion trio of cancer medicines Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin hit the market.

Core operating profit last year rose 9 percent to 20.5 billion Swiss francs ($20.65 billion), Roche said in a statement.

Sales rose 7 percent to 56.8 billion francs, just ahead of the 56.4 billion francs average estimate in a Reuters poll.

Schwan forecast 2019 sales and earnings-per-share growth in the "low- to mid-single digit" percentage range, spurred by new drugs including Ocrevus multiple sclerosis drug, Hemlibra for hemophilia A and cancer medicines Alecensa and Tecentriq.

"Based on the successful launches and our strong product pipeline, Roche is well positioned for continued growth," Schwan said.

The company board proposed a dividend increase to 8.70 francs per share. ($1 = 0.9927 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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