United Therapeutics reports first profit

Move into black surprises analysts who forecast loss

August 04, 2004|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

United Therapeutics Corp., reported yesterday its first quarterly profit on record revenue - a surprise development that helped boost the company's stock price by almost 17 percent.

The Silver Spring biotechnology company said net income in the second quarter was $4.14 million, or 18 cents a share on a fully diluted basis, compared with a net loss of $2.38 million, or 11 cents per fully diluted share, in the quarter last year.

Analysts had expected United to lose 3 cents per share, according to a survey conducted by Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue was $18.30 million, 31 percent higher than the $13.98 million reported for last year's second quarter, the company said.

United Therapeutics' shares rose $4.01 yesterday to close at $28.05, an improvement of 16.7 percent.

"We're very proud," said Fred T. Hadeed, the company's chief financial officer. "United Therapeutics was founded in 1996, and in just eight years, we have become one of a very small number of profitable [biotechnology] companies."

In Maryland, only a handful of the state's 310 biotechnology companies are public, and even fewer are profitable. They include Martek Biosciences Corp., Digene Corp., and MedImmune Inc.

United Therapeutics' profit was fueled by sales of Remodulin, its drug for pulmonary hypertension. That malady, which causes severe high blood pressure in the lungs, affects mostly women aged 20 to 40 and often leads to heart failure, said Hadeed.

While women in that age range account for as much as 70 percent of those afflicted with life-threatening pulmonary hypertension, the disease can strike men, women and children of all ages, he said.

About 700 patients are using Remodulin, an infusion therapy that must be used for the rest of their lives, Hadeed said. Another 75 patients started using the drug during the second quarter.

"This is a life-saving drug," Hadeed said.

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