Shareholders of GlaxoSmithKline were pleased with the company’s fourth quarter earnings report, despite a $389 million operating loss, as the pharmaceutical giant beat analyst expectations and said it was poised to resume profit gains after several turbulent years.
GSK, one of the Triangle’s largest employers, said revenue growth and lower per share earnings both resulted from last year’s $20 billion asset swap with Novartis, now fully completed and largely integrated.
As a result, the British company’s workforce in the Triangle, exceeding 5,000 a year ago, has been pared to more than 2,600 at its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park and about 1,050 workers and contractors at its manufacturing site in Zebulon.
GSK’s stock closed Wednesday at $42.05, up $1.15.
CEO Andrew Witty expressed confidence the company’s worst days were behind it.
“I’m very happy that 2015 has delivered ahead of our expectations,” he told analysts.
Even GSK’s best-selling drug, the asthma inhaler Advair, saw a 2 percent sales boost in the fourth quarter, posting sales of nearly $1.6 billion.
Advair, which is manufactured in Zebulon, has been losing market share to cheaper competitors, a slide which is expected to accelerate if a generic version of the drug is introduced.
GSK’s chief financial officer, Simon Dingemans, said Advair sales are expected to drop 20 percent this year, a decline that is factored into the company’s financial forecast.
In a separate call with journalists, Witty said Advair sales are already 30 percent off there peak. He said the company is now looking ahead to promoting replacements and developing about 40 drugs in the pipeline.
Witty said the company isn’t concerned about when a generic version of Advair may be introduced.
“I’m not spending every waking hour worrying about this, because it’s their job to potentially get it approved, it’s our job to generate the products which succeed and replace [Advair],” he said.
GSK posted $9.6 billion in sales for the fourth quarter, up 1.6 percent compared with the same 3-month period a year ago. Revenue for the full year was $36.6 billion, up 14 percent.