Company news

April 29, 2013

New WellPoint Inc. CEO Joe Swedish threw cold water April 24 on widespread speculation that he will lead the company through a new wave of hospital and doctor acquisitions. Swedish, 61, had spent his entire career managing hospitals, including the past eight years as CEO of Michigan-based Trinity Health Corp., a Catholic hospital system. But in spite of many questions about the prospect, he’s not looking to get back in that business. “To be clear, I do not currently see vertical integration as a likely path for WellPoint,” Swedish said during an investor conference call Wednesday morning. “The models are so divergent that it just does not seem to be the best use of capital.” Analysts, investors, local health care providers and even WellPoint’s own employees have been asking about the possibility of WellPoint's acquiring hospitals and doctors since Swedish was named in mid-February to replace former WellPoint CEO Angela Braly. Instead, Swedish emphasized that WellPoint is moving to work more closely with health care providers than the confrontational stand that it and most health insurers have taken in the past. But he spoke about new kinds of contracts, rather than acquisitions.

A pharmacy that makes specialty medications is recalling nearly 100 compounded drugs after federal regulators found potential safety problems during an inspection. Nora Apothecary Alternative Therapies of Indianapolis says it is recalling all sterile drugs that have not reached their expiration date. The drugs were made on or before April 19. The company said it initiated the recall after the Food and Drug Administration found quality control problems that threaten the sterility of its products. If compounded drugs are not sterile, they can cause infections, though the company said it has not received any reports of illness.

Record sales of seeds and new crop protection products helped boost Dow AgroSciences LLC revenue 14 percent in the first quarter, leading to record profit. The Indianapolis-based maker of agricultural products, a unit of Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co., brought in $2.1 billion in revenue compared with $1.7 billion a year earlier. Profit in the latest quarter totaled $484 million before accounting for interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. That was a 7-percent jump from $451 million a year earlier, Dow Chemical reported April 25. Sales of crop protection products swelled 7 percent, driven by gains in North America and Latin America. Sales of seeds, genetic traits and oils rocketed 37 percent, due in part to strong demand for the firm’s genetically modified SmartStax products.

Eli Lilly and Co. said the Food and Drug Administration will perform a priority evaluation of its experimental stomach cancer drug ramucirumab under a program designed for drugs that treat serious or life-threatening diseases for which there are few other therapies. According to the Associated Press, this fast-track status gives companies extra meetings and correspondence with regulators throughout the review process, and it allows the drugmaker to submit data as it compiles it. Lilly is seeking approval for ramucirumab as a second treatment in patients with gastric and gastroesophageal junction cancers that have spread. In the first quarter, Lilly's earnings jumped 53 percent largely due to a $495 million payment for the transfer to former drug development partner Amylin Pharmaceuticals of commercial rights outside the United States for the diabetes treatment exenatide. Lilly earned $1.55 billion, or $1.42 per share, in the three months that ended March 31. Not counting the exenatide payment, Lilly reported adjusted earnings of $1.14 per share. Analysts expected, on average, earnings of $1.05 per share.

WellPoint Inc. reported better-than-expected financial results for the quarter ended March 31. The Indianapolis-based health insurer earned $885.2 million in the first three months of the year, or $2.89 per share. Profit was 3.4 percent higher than in the same quarter a year ago. Excluding investment losses and other extraordinary charges, the company would have earned $2.94 per share, a nearly 26-percent increase over the same quarter last year. On that basis, analysts were expecting profit of $2.38 per share, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. The higher earnings prompted WellPoint to raise its full-year profit forecast to $7.75 per share, up from its previous prediction of $7.60 per share.

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