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May 6, 2020, 2:20 a.m. EDT

Stockpiling helps Novo Nordisk beat forecasts

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By Dominic Chopping

Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk A/S on Wednesday posted a forecast-beating rise in first-quarter earnings as patients in the U.S. and Europe in particular stockpiled medicines during the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite stockpiling boosting results in the quarter, Novo Nordisk said its underlying performance remained firm, helped by strong sales growth of its diabetes and obesity treatments and prompting the company to maintain full-year guidance.

Net profit for the first three months of the year rose to 11.9 billion Danish kroner ($1.74 billion) from DKK10.45 billion a year earlier, beating the DKK11.1 billion forecast by analysts in a FactSet poll. Sales rose 16% to DKK33.88 billion against analysts' expectations of DKK31.79 billion.

All of its manufacturing sites continue to operate and products are still being distributed and made available to patients world-wide, the company said. However, during the current period of social distancing, fewer new patients are expected to start treatment on the company's products.

For 2020, sales growth is still expected to be 3% to 6% measured in local currencies, reflecting expectations for robust sales of the company's diabetes care products Ozempic, Victoza and Rybelsus, obesity care product Saxenda, the portfolio of new-generation insulin, and biopharm products.

The guidance also reflects intensifying competition both within diabetes care and biopharm, as well as continued pricing pressure within diabetes care and affordability initiatives in the U.S., it added.

Sales growth reported in Danish kroner is still anticipated to be one percentage point higher than in local currencies.

Operating profit growth is still expected to be 1% to 5% measured in local currencies, while reported in Danish kroner it is still expected to be one percentage point higher than in local currencies.

Capital expenditure guidance of around DKK6.5 billion is also maintained, but the loss from financial items is now seen at around DKK2.5 billion from DKK1.5 billion previously.

Write to Dominic Chopping at dominic.chopping@wsj.com

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