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Roche sees slower growth, less profit

Basel-based Roche has announced a less than expected full-year net profit of SFr10.8 billion ($9.3 billion) for 2008, five per cent down on the previous year.

Annual sales of SFr45.6 billion for the pharmaceutical giant were one per cent lower than in 2007 in Swiss francs but Roche said the results were six per cent higher in local currencies.

Decreased sales in the pandemic drug Tamiflu and a strong Swiss franc held back growth, Roche said. The company proposed a higher than forecast dividend of SFr5 per share.

Barring unforeseen events, Roche expects to continue to perform strongly in 2009, it said. "Full-year sales in both the pharmaceuticals and the diagnostics division are expected to grow ahead of the market, with increases in the mid-single-digit range in local currencies."

The prediction is a cut from Roche's 2008 forecast of "high-single-digit" growth.

The company last week launched a surprise hostile bid for the California-based biotech group Genentech. Roche, which already owns 55.8 per cent of Genentech, made the direct appeal to shareholders after the company's board rejected an offer of $89 per share last July.

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