CSL: The pandemic has produced a headwind and tailwind

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CSL (ASX:CSL) has reported its full-year result for 2021 boosted by the strong sales performance of its key products but a mixed impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"COVID-19 has produced a headwind for Behring and a tailwind for Seqirus," said the company in its results presentation.

CSL reported a ten per cent increase in revenue to $10.3 billion with net profit after tax rising 13 per cent to $2.375 billion. 

"Despite the uncertainty and complexities we have faced, our CSL Behring and Seqirus businesses maintained all critical operations and we have continued to deliver our life saving and life-extending medicines around the world,” said Paul Perreault, CSL’s CEO and managing director.

“I am proud of the way our dedicated employees have remained focused. They have been asked to work in different ways and in different settings and have shown great resolve to keep our promise to patients. This is a testament to our values and the Company’s resilience and agility.”

CSL's vaccine division Seqirus was a standout with a 30 per cent increase in revenue to US$1.7 billion, driven by a 41 per cent rise in sales of its seasonal influenza vaccine.

Seqirus recently started the construction of a next-generation cell-based influenza manufacturing facility in Melbourne as part of a long-term procurement agreement with the Australian government. The 'greenfields' facility is scheduled to be operational by 2026.

CSL Behring reported a six per cent increase in revenue to $8.57 billion. This included a three per cent rise in revenue from Behring's immunoglobulins to US$4.23 billion with the company highlighting a 15 per cent increase in sales of HIZENTRA. It said the strong growth in sales of HIZENTRA was driven by an increased patient preference for at-home treatment.

The company said it has introduced a number of initiatives to address the challenge of collecting plasma during the pandemic. Collections were down 20 per cent in 2021 compared to the previous year. It said these initiatives included "operating and marketing" programs to attract lapsed and new donors as well as new collection centres. The company opened 25 new centres in 2021 with plans to open another 40 in 2022. The company said it expects plasma collections will continue to improve.

Sales of Behring's haemophilia products were down four per cent. The company attributed this result to a decline in doctor visits during the pandemic. 

Mr Perreault continued, “Sales of our transformational therapy for patients with Hereditary Angioedema (HAE), HAEGARDA, increased 14% driven by continued patient growth and a shift from on-demand to prophylaxis treatment.

“Albumin sales grew significantly by 61%. Our new distribution model in China has been fully operational for 12 months, with sales reflecting a more normalised level. The new trading model in China gives us direct management of over 180 distributors. This not only expands our geographic coverage, but also gives us increased penetration to retail pharmacies and hospitals.”

CSL's investment in research and development also topped $1 billion with initiatives across immunology, haematology, cardiovascular and metabolic, respiratory, transplant and influence vaccines. The company is currently assessing an mRNA candidate for seasonal and pandemic influenza.

The company said it expects to report a net profit after tax in 2022 of US$2.15 billion to $2.25 billion.

“At the half-year results, we foreshadowed margin easing as a result of increased plasma costs, this will continue into FY22. We see FY22 as a transitional year as we continue to invest and deliver against our long term strategy,” added Mr Perreault.