(Bloomberg) -- Roche Holding AG nudged this year’s profit and sales forecast upward as new medicines for cancer and multiple sclerosis fill the gap left by competition for its older drugs, particularly in the vital U.S. market.

Core earnings per share and sales will climb by a percentage in the mid-single digits this year, factoring out currency fluctuations, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said in a statement. Roche had predicted in January that both profit and sales would rise by a low- to mid-single digit percentage. The stock rose as much as 1.9 percent in Zurich trading.

The boost a quarter into the year is a sign of the Swiss drugmaker’s optimism about its ability to offset competition for the trio of decades-old cancer medicines at the heart of its business. Roche has been branching out into other types of diseases as sales for its old medicines drop, particularly in Europe, where biosimilar copies are widely available.

“This strong first-quarter performance underscores our confidence in Roche,” Peter Welford and colleagues at Jefferies Financial Group Inc. wrote in a note to clients. The company is their top pick among large European pharma companies, they said.

More Deals

Roche is trying to gain a foothold in gene therapy via the $4.8 billion purchase of Spark Therapeutics Inc. The deal will probably close in the first half after a delay to allow more time for U.S. regulators to review and clear it, Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan said in a televised interview. More mid-sized transactions on the Spark model are “well possible” ahead, he said.Roche’s new multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus saw sales grow by two-thirds in the first quarter, to 836 million Swiss francs ($830 million). The hemophilia therapy Hemlibra had sales of 219 million francs. And Perjeta, a breast-cancer medicine designed to complement Roche’s aging blockbuster Herceptin, recorded a 41 percent boost to 868 million francs.

The Swiss drugmaker’s total sales climbed 9 percent to 14.8 billion francs. Roche reports only revenue on a quarterly basis and will disclose earnings after the first half of the year.

(Updates with share gain in second paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Naomi Kresge in Berlin at nkresge@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Eric Pfanner at epfanner1@bloomberg.net, Marthe Fourcade, Thomas Mulier

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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