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      Profit falls at Indian drug maker

      Posted AtInternational Herald Tribune

      NEW DELHI Ranbaxy Laboratories, India's biggest drug maker, said profit fell for a fourth consecutive quarter because sales declined in the United States while research and legal costs rose. The shares fell as much as 3.9 percent.

      Net income fell 91 percent to 184 million rupees, or $4.1 million, in the three months that ended Sept. 30, from 2 billion rupees a year earlier. Sales declined to 13.04 billion rupees from 13.44 billion rupees, the company said Friday.

      Ranbaxy has cut prices of its best-selling drugs in the United States to counter competition from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries of Israel, Mylan Laboratories of Pennsylvania and other overseas rivals.

      "The pricing deflation in certain parts of the year has continued through this quarter," Brian Tempest, chief executive of Ranbaxy, told reporters. "A major impact has been the price deflation in the U.S. marketplace and if anything it has accelerated in the third quarter."

      Ranbaxy's shares, which have declined 38 percent this year, fell 12.5 rupees, or 3.1 percent, to close at 389.6 rupees on the Mumbai stock exchange. The shares are the worst performer on the Sensitive index.

      "This quarter has been below expectations but I will wait for one or two more quarters to make a definite conclusion about what direction this company is taking," said K.K. Mital, who manages shares including Ranbaxy as chief investment officer at Escorts Asset Management in New Delhi. "At this moment I'm mildly optimistic."

      U.S. sales, which accounted for about 26 percent of Ranbaxy's revenue in the quarter, fell 25 percent to $76 million. The company, which sells more than 80 drugs and their variations there, is competing with more than 15 companies on some products, including a copy of Cipro, a Bayer antibiotic.

      Research spending in the quarter rose 71 percent to 1.53 billion rupees, the company said.

      "The high expenditure on research is affecting margins but it may yield some good results in the future," Mital said. "They have filed a lot of generics in the U.S. market. If they get a few approvals it will be a boost to the stock."

      Sales in Europe rose 5 percent to $49 million and sales in Brazil, Russia, India and China increased a combined 16 percent to $95 million.

      The company, which spent $25 million on litigation last year, is spending more on legal fees this year as it challenges drug patents in the United States and Europe. It expects to spend about $30 million on litigation this year, Jay Deshmukh, Ranbaxy's vice president for intellectual property, said.

      The company has challenged Pfizer's patents on its cholesterol medicine Lipitor, which had sales of $10.9 billion last year, in the United States and Europe. Pfizer on Oct. 12 won a U.K. court ruling protecting a key patent on Lipitor. A Ranbaxy spokesman, Charles Caprariello, said the company would appeal.

      The drug maker is also battling companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Astellas Pharma in U.S. courts to sell its version of their drugs there. It is challenging the U.S. patents for GlaxoSmithKline's Valtrex herpes drug and Takeda Chemical Industries's diabetes medicine Actos.

      Drug makers strive to be the first to challenge the patents of branded drugs so that they can receive 180-day exclusivity in the U.S. market. That is when they earn the most money because prices fall when other generics enter.

      Shareholders approved a plan to raise as much as $1.5 billion through the sale of bonds or shares overseas, the company said. The company's board had approved the plan on Sept. 9.

      October 24, 2005


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