Strong Swiss franc hits Roche sales

Reuters

ZURICH (Reuters) - Roche kicked off the big pharma reporting season by posting slightly weaker-than-expected third-quarter sales, as the strong Swiss franc ate into the Swiss drugmaker's topline.

Third-quarter sales at Roche, which is also grappling with lower sales of its key cancer drug Avastin and the effects of global austerity measures, fell 14.5 percent to 9.82 billion Swiss francs, below the average estimate of 10.2 billion francs in a Reuters poll.

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Roche's sales guidance excludes Tamiflu, a pill to treat flu.

Stripping out the currency impact, third-quarter sales rose 2 percent, excluding Tamiflu, underscoring the hit from the franc, which has soared to a series of records against the dollar and the euro this year.

Roche, like many other Swiss companies, has battled with the strong franc throughout the year, but it is still firmly committed to its Swiss base thanks to the deep talent pools, excellent infrastructure and low tax rates.

Last month, the Swiss National Bank set an exchange rate cap on the franc against the euro of 1.20 per euro -- a move that should take the heat off Swiss exporters and also help Swiss biotech group Actelion, which is due to report quarterly figures next week.

(Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Mike Nesbit)