Biogen Inc.'s first quarter earnings this year were down 74 percentfrom a year ago, but were in line with analysts estimates whenreleased Thursday. Investors are waiting for the company'sregulatory approval filing on its beta interferon product for multiplesclerosis, expected by mid-year.

For the quarter that ended March 31, Biogen reported net income of$2.8 million, or 8 cents per share, on revenues of $36 million. In thefirst quarter of 1994, the company had net income of $11 million, or31 cents per share, on revenues of $45 million.

David Stone, a managing director in Cowen & Co.'s Boston office, isprojecting earnings of 15 cents per share for 1995. "They will be flatto slightly down as royalties hover at their present level and expensescontinue to rise."

Stone told BioWorld that 1996 earnings could be 80 cents, assumingthe launch of beta interferon in the second half of that year generates$75 million in revenues.

"The numbers were expected, even though they don't lookparticularly good," Stone said. "Their 8 cents per share earnings wereright in line with consensus. The royalty income was essentially flatfrom the fourth quarter, and down from the first quarter a year ago,principally because alpha interferon sales in Japan were quite weak."

Biogen's alpha interferon product is sold under the name Intron A bySchering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J. Revenues were reduced inJapan because of a cut in the government's reimbursement rate.

Biogen's other major product on the market is a hepatitis B vaccinethat's sold by U.K.-based SmithKline Beecham plc (SKB) under thename Engerix-B. Earlier this month Biogen received a favorable U.S.arbitration decision related to SKB's attempt to reduce royaltypayments. In 1992 a decision on the same issue was decided inSKB's favor for non-U.S. sales of Engerix-B.

The beta interferon product for multiple sclerosis would be Biogen'sfirst proprietary product marketed by itself.

Matthew Geller, an analyst with New York-based Oppenheimer &Co. Inc., said the trends he saw were good hepatitis B sales in Europeand pressure on alpha interferon sales in Japan. "The earnings werenot a surprise," he said.

Kathryn Bloom, Biogen's director of communications, said thecompany expects to file for regulatory approval of the beta interferonproduct in the first half of this year in Europe and the U.S.

Stone said expenses are up somewhat as Biogen prepares for filing."Investors," he said, "are principally focused on the earningsopportunity from beta interferon once it is approved and launched."

Biogen's stock closed up 50 cents Thursday at $39.25. Two othertop-tier companies moved even more. Genzyme Corp., of Cambridge,Mass., released good first-quarter numbers after the market closedWednesday. Its stock (NASDAQ:GENZ) was up $3.37 Thursday,closing at $42.25 in trading of 2.3 million shares. Thousand Oaks,Calif.-based Amgen Inc.'s stock (NASDAQ:AMGN) was up $2.88,closing at $73.25 in trading of 3.6 million shares. n

-- Jim Shrine

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