CSL reports strong first half and details scale of COVID-19 response

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CSL has reported net profit after tax of $1.8 billion for the first half of the financial year 2021. The company said the 44 per cent increase was driven by strong growth in sales of its key products and the successful transition to its own distribution model in China.

The company, which is now in the process of manufacturing 50 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and The University of Oxford, said its first-half result also includes one-off contributions it received for the work it undertook on the now-scrapped vaccine developed by the University of Queensland.

CSL said it re-deployed and recruited 400 personnel to work on the project. It has also undertaken extensive retooling of facilities across two of its sites in Melbourne and produced 300,000 finished doses for the planned phase three clinical trial.

The company's Seqirus vaccine division reported a 38 per cent rise in revenue driven by a 44 per cent increase in sales of its seasonal flu vaccine. CSL Behring revenue rose 9 per cent highlighted by 19 per cent increase in sales of subcutaneous immunoglobulin therapy HIZENTRA.

“I am pleased to report a strong result in an unprecedented time of uncertainty during the most severe pandemic of our lifetime,” said CSL CEO and managing director Mr Paul Perreault.

“Guided by our values, our 27,000 dedicated employees remained focused on delivering on our promise to patients and public health. Our people and business model both demonstrated tremendous agility and resiliency in this most challenging of environments.”

He continued, “Our core franchise, the immunoglobulin portfolio, has continued to perform well led by our market-leading subcutaneous product HIZENTRA. HIZENTRA sales grew strongly, up 19% reflecting the benefits of home administration and the continued strong uptake for the treatment of the debilitating neurological disorder CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy). Our intravenous product PRIVIGEN, grew only modestly, tempered by pandemic-driven supply constraints.

“Albumin sales grew at a strong 93%, largely reflecting the successful transition to our own distribution model in China. Albumin sales in China now reflect a more normalised level with the new distribution model expected to help improve our participation in the value chain and strengthen sales, marketing and our distribution network.

"Sales of our transformational therapy for patients with Hereditary Angioedema (HAE), HAEGARDA, increased 16% with new patients continuing to take up the innovative therapy.

“Our influenza business Seqirus, delivered an exceptionally strong performance, more than doubling earnings before interest and tax to $693 million. This was achieved by significant growth in seasonal influenza vaccines driven by record demand and the ongoing shift to Seqirus’ differentiated and high-value product portfolio.

“In the half, we also announced plans to construct a new world-class biotech manufacturing facility in Australia as a further sign of our promise in providing safe and effective influenza vaccines around the world. The state-of-the-art facility will use cell-based technology to produce influenza vaccines for use in both influenza pandemics and seasonal vaccination programs – and will be the only cell-based influenza vaccines facility in the Southern Hemisphere,” added Mr Perreault.

Mr Perreault said the company's outlook remains "robust" but that COVID-19 will continue to have an impact.

"Our plasma collections have been adversely affected during the pandemic. To combat this, we have implemented a number of initiatives to increase plasma collections and introduced a customer fulfilment process to ensure the equitable distribution of medicines to patients.”

He also said the work done on COVID-19 vaccines in Australia has resulted in "significant opportunity costs to our standard business and manufacturing operations and the re-prioritisation of some R&D projects. Subsequently, there will be an increase in operations and R&D spend in the second half as we restart projects and build them back to scale."

Mr Perreault said the company's net profit after tax for the full year is anticipated to be in the range of approximately $2,170 million to $2,265 million at constant currency, representing growth of approximately 8 per cent.