Lilly gets lift after earnings rise 21 percent-WEB ONLY

Eli Lilly and Co. saw only a slight bump in its share price this morning after reporting first quarter profit that exceeded analysts’ expectations by 21 percent.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker said part of that increase was caused by the rapid rise of the value of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies. The benefit isn’t likely to continue for the rest of the year, the company said.

Shares of Lilly rose as high as $34.43 in morning trading, a 2-percent increase over its close on Friday. Broader markets sank as investors locked in profits from a six-week rally.

Lilly reported earnings per share of $1.20, well above the 99 cents Wall Street analysts predicted, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

Lilly said first-quarter profit was $1.3 billion, up 23 percent from nearly $1.1 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

“The core business is doing quite well,” Les Funtleyder, a health care analyst at Miller Tabak & Co., wrote in a note to investors. However, he counseled that investors not buy Lilly stock until Lilly brings more of the experimental drugs in its pipeline onto the market.

Lilly’s first-quarter revenue rose 5 percent, to $5.05 billion, in line with analysts’ forecasts. Sales were particularly strong in the United States, due to the strong dollar, rising 13 percent to $2.87 billion. Foreign revenue slid 4 percent, to $2.18 billion.

Fluctuating exchange rates also tempered sales growth of some Lilly products. Alimta sales jumped 36 percent, to $335 million, and Cymbalta sales grew 17 percent, to $709.3 million. Humalog sales rose 11 percent, to $450.6 million, and Cialis sales expanded 6 percent, to $358.8 million. Sales of Lilly top-seller Zyprexa remained flat, at $1.1 billion.

Sales of Gemzar fell 14 percent, to $368 million, as generic copies of the pill started hitting foreign markets on March 9.

“We are off to a strong start for 2009,” said Derica Rice, Lilly’s chief financial officer. “This type of financial performance provides the resources necessary to drive future growth to effectively deal with the patent expirations coming in the next decade and to deal with an increasingly challenging health care environment.”

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