Simone Menne highlights the EU's achievements, and her firm's contribution
With Brexit looming, Boehringer Ingelheim has issued a plea for EU unity and a warning that the common internal market and free movement of labour "should not be gambled with lightly".
The UK's triggering of Article 50 is still dominating headlines and Boehringer's board member in charge of finance – Simone Menne – took pains to talk up the EU's achievements, and Boehringer's contribution to that, at the annual press conference yesterday.
The company employs 22,000 people in the EU, with each job securing four more in the region and the company's activities adding €8.5bn to gross value to the EU she said, telling journalists that "only with a united Europe will we be able to maintain prosperity for future generations".
Menne made the comments as the privately-held pharma company delivered a buoyant set of results for 2016 in which it shrugged off the effects of structural changes implemented last year, with strong sales gains across all of its business units.
2016 was a disruptive year for Boehringer Ingelheim, punctuated by the sale of its consumer health and US generics business and the absorption of Sanofi's animal health unit Merial, which took effect on January 1.
Despite the reorganisation, net sales of €15.9bn for the group were "far more than [the company] was expecting a year ago" according to Menne, who added that operating profit also topped expectations, rising almost 27% to $€2.9bn.
The pharma unit benefited from a tighter focus on prescription drugs, with sales last year rising 7.4% to €12bn. Crucially, while Boehringer's biggest drug Spiriva (tiotropium) for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) started to face generic competition, other drugs offsetting its 14.9% decline to €3bn.
Boehringer is hoping to migrate patients to new combination therapy Spiolto/Stiolto (tiotropium plus olodaterol) but with the asthma and COPD category becoming increasingly crowded and price-sensitive the combination is less likely to reach the peak of its predecessor. That means the company needs a strong showing from other new drugs – and it says it delivered on that last year.
In particular, Eli Lilly-partnered diabetes franchise based on DPP-4 inhibitor Trajenta (linagliptin) climbed 23% to €1.1bn while sales of lung disease therapy Ofev (nintedanib) more than doubled to €613m.
The company did not break out sales for Jardiance (empagliflozin), which was highlighted as a key driver at its interim results in 2016, but said it remained on an "impressive trajectory".
Animal health grew 9% to €1.5bn and consumer health was up 10% to €1.6bn ahead of the asset swap with Sanofi, and Boehringer's contract biologics manufacturing also did well with a 6.4% increase in turnover to €600m.
Menne said that Boehringer is expecting a "considerable boost" to the contract business thanks to the €700m expansion of the firm's biopharma production site in Vienna, with a new plant due to come online in 2021.