March 1, 2011 / 1:23 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 3-QLT posts loss as sales of eye drug drop

* Loss/shr $0.38 versus year-ago EPS $1.49

* Sales of Visudyne eye drug fall nearly 4 percent

* 2011 revenue forecast ahead of market estimates

* Shares drop 2 percent in Toronto (Adds details, analyst’s comments. In U.S. dollars unless noted)

TORONTO, March 1 (Reuters) - Canada’s QLT Inc QLT.TO QLTI.O posted a quarterly net loss on Tuesday as sales of its treatment for an age-related eye disease dropped, sending the biotechnology company’s shares lower.

Total revenue fell by 7 percent while sales of Visudyne, a treatment for age-related macular degeneration, a cause of blindness in people over the age of 55, fell 4 percent.

“Competition continues to eat their market share,” Morningstar analyst Michael Waterhouse said.

Lucentis, made by Roche Holding’s ROG.VX Genetech unit, has made the deepest inroads into Visudyne’s business, he said. “Lucentis is still going to take more market share.”

Even so, the Vancouver-based company gave a 2011 revenue forecast that topped market estimates.

QLT has a partnership deal with Novartis AG NOVN.VX under which the Swiss drugmaker markets the product.

In the fourth quarter, the company lost $19.2 million, or 38 cents a share. A year earlier it turned a a profit of $80.6 million, or $1.49, including $116.7 million of income from discontinued operations.

Excluding items, the company earned 6 cents a share in the latest quarter.

Visudyne sales fell nearly 4 percent to $24.5 million.

Total revenue dropped to $10 million, ahead of market estimates of $8.8 million.

For the year, QLT forecast Visudyne sales of $85 million to $90 million. The company forecast its own revenue at $40 million to $44 million.

Analysts on average had expected annual revenue of $36.7 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The results follow the departure of QLT’s chief medical officer, Dipak Panigrahi, who stepped down only a year after he joined the company.

“A lot of their future value depends on the pipeline, and when one of their chief researchers leaves, it is not an encouraging sign,” Waterhouse said.

QLT shares dropped 2.3 percent on Tuesday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange and down 2.2 percent on Nasdaq. The stock has lost 11 percent of its value in the last two months.

Last month, a mid-stage trial for its experimental allergic conjunctivitis treatment showed the drug did not reduce symptoms compared with a placebo. The company said it was disappointed the study could not generate definitive clinical results.

Reporting by S. John Tilak in Toronto and Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay in Bangalore, editing by Frank McGurty

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