Amgen to pay dividend, gives outlook

Amgen Inc. provided a long-term financial forecast above Wall Street estimates and said it would begin paying a dividend this year amounting to about 20% of its adjusted net income, and increasing in the future.

The world's largest biotechnology company, seeking to map out its growth strategy, told a meeting of investors and analysts in New York on Thursday that it expects 2015 revenue of $16 billion to $18 billion and earnings of $7.25 a share to $8.60 a share.

Analysts on average are estimating 2015 earnings of $7.16 a share and revenue of $16.95 billion, according to Thomson Reuters, but Amgen shares fell 4.5% Thursday.

Sanford Bernstein analyst Geoffrey Porges said investors may be disappointed that the low end of the revenue forecast represents just 1% growth over current revenue.

Other analysts said there probably was near-term concern over potential declines in use and sales of Amgen's anemia drug Epogen in kidney dialysis patients.

Amgen said it expected sales of its new denosumab products — the cancer drug Xgeva and osteoporosis medicine Prolia — to reach $3 billion to $4 billion in 2015.

"We're determined to work hard to make the forecast that we present to you today a reality, or better," Chief Executive Kevin Sharer said at the company's first such meeting since 2008.

Sharer, 63, said in an interview that there would be a new CEO to see the 2015 forecasts through.

"I will not be here in 2015," Sharer said.

"In the next few years I'm sure we'll have a management transition, but we're not announcing any dates or anything," he said. Amgen does not have a mandatory retirement age.

Analysts and investors had been expecting Amgen to announce initiation of a dividend after months of expressing displeasure with the idea that the company might use its large cash balance for a major acquisition rather than returning money to shareholders.

The Amgen board also authorized repurchases of up to an additional $5 billion of its common stock, bringing the average return to shareholders to about 60% of adjusted net income through 2015, including the dividend.

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