Scientists at Novo's Måløv location. Photo: Claus Bech/Scanpix
The world's largest insulin maker, Novo Nordisk of Denmark, on Wednesday posted Wednesday its highest ever annual profit but its stock plunged as the company slashed its long-term outlook.
Net profit for 2015 soared by 32 percent to 34.8 billion kroner (€4.67 billion, $5.0 billion).
The group said it expected its 2016 operating profit to rise by between five and nine percent, excluding currency effects and exceptional items, as it prepares to launch its ultraslow-acting insulin Tresiba in the United States in the first quarter, in what is expected to be its biggest launch to date.
But investors were disappointed by the company's long-term forecast for its operating profit, which it cut by half to 10 percent, from the 20 percent it has maintained for the past two decades.
At 10.15 GMT, the share was down by 4.77 percent, after shedding 7 percent at opening, in an overall market down by 1.36 percent. Over the past 12 months, the share had gained 29 percent as sales surged by 22 percent to 107.9 billion kroner.
Novo Nordisk posted record margins for a group its size: an operating margin of 45.8 percent, up 7.0 percentage points from a year earlier, and a net margin of 32.3 percent, up by 2.5 points.
But the group said it didn't expect to increase its operating margin, which it saw stable around 44 percent in the medium-term. Between 2011 and 2014 it remained between 33 and 39 percent.
The company, which holds 47 percent of the world insulin market, has benefitted from the steady rise of diabetes around the world. Nine percent of adults worldwide have been diagnosed with the disease that causes 1.5 million deaths per year, according to the World Health Organisation.
“We are very pleased with Novo Nordisk's performance in 2015 and the achievement of our four long-term financial targets. In 2016 we will continue to focus on the global launch of Tresiba,” chief executive Lars Rebien Sørensen — named the best CEO in the world by the Harvard Business Review in October — said in a statement.
The company proposed a 28 percent increase in the dividend paid out to shareholders.
Earnings in the fourth quarter alone were the weakest of the year, with a 26 percent rise in net profit to 8.26 billion kroner.
Novo Nordisk also develops biopharmaceuticals, for hemophilia and growth hormones, a division which saw sales rise by 19 percent.