Roche Finished 1999 On Strong Note

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG's 1999 profits rose 14.5 %, slightly below market forecasts but still acknowledged by analysts as a strong performance. The Zurich-based company's adjusted net profits excluding exceptional items in 1999 were SFr 5.031 billion (US$3.01 billion), up from SFr4.392 billion a year earlier. Analysts had forecast net profits of SFr5.0-5.3 billion. Including exceptional items, net profits reached SFr5.764 billion. The company said the preconditions for "solid 2000 growth are in place" and it expects another good result for the current year. "The financial effects of the Genentech Inc. transactions, the vitamin case, and legal settlements by Genentech had a major impact on 1999 results," the company said. Earlier this month Roche sold 17.3 million shares in its biotechnology subsidiary Genentech, raising $2.8 billion for general corporate purposes. Last year Roche was fined SFr 2.43 billion (US$1.5 billion) when the U.S. Justice Dept. found it guilty of violating anti-trust laws and dividing up the U.S. vitamins market, together with German chemicals group BASF AG and France's Rhone-Poulenc. Roche's fragrances and flavors division is scheduled to be spun off as Givaudan, pending approval at the annual general meeting on May 9. The division is poised for growth as an independent company, Roche said, following consolidation in purchasing and production in 1999.

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