(Corrects paragraph 2 to clarify that the earnings per share figure excludes special items. Adds paragraph 4 to include net income per share)
* EPS ex items nil vs forecast of $0.10 share loss
* Sees 2010 Visudyne sales $90 mln-$100 mln vs $105.7 mln
* Punctal plug trial results disappoint
* Shares fall 6.25 percent to C$4.80 (Adds background and share price. In U.S. dollars)
TORONTO, March 10 (Reuters) - QLT Inc QLT.TO reported quarterly results that topped expectations, but its shares fell more than 6 percent on Wednesday as sales of its key anti-blindness drug slipped and it warned of more declines ahead for the treatment.
The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company, which has narrowed its focus to ocular treatments over the past two years, said its fourth-quarter earnings per share, excluding special items, were nil. That compares with a 10 cents a share loss expected by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Including a gain of $151.1 million from the sale of its QLT USA division, net income was $80.6 million, or $1.49 a share, for the quarter that ended Dec. 31, compared with net income of $5.9 million, or 8 cents a share, for the same period a year earlier.
QLT’s shares fell 6.25 percent to C$4.80 as the company reported continued decline in sales of Visudyne, its treatment for vision loss in seniors.
Revenue, which consists solely of QLT’s share of sales from Visudyne, fell 8.8 percent during the quarter to $10.8 million.
Worldwide Visudyne sales, which include sales from QLT’s partner, Novartis AG NOVN.VX, dropped 17 percent to $25.4 million.
The company said it sees 2010 Visudyne sales in the range of $90 million to $100 million, down from 2009 sales of $105.7 million.
Also weighing on the stock were disappointing mid-stage trial results for its punctal plug glaucoma treatment. A punctal plug is a device that is inserted into the tear duct of an eye to block the duct to prevent drainage of liquid, which causes dry eye.
The company said in a separate release that the 90-day retention rate for the device in the tear duct was 81 percent, well off the company’s target of 90 percent.
QLT president Bob Butchofsky said it would take time to develop the product before it seeks a partnership arrangement with a big pharmaceutical company.
“The success of our company is really dependent on the success of the punctal plugs...” he said on a conference call with analysts.
“Once we get to a product where we think that there’s a very high probability of success, that’s when we can derive the most value from a partnership and that’s really the model that we’re going to pursue.”
The company unveiled a restructuring plan in 2008 to concentrate on eye care. It has unloaded a number of assets, including its U.S. operations and its Eligard prostate cancer treatment, sold an acne treatment, and divested its Vancouver headquarters for a total of more than $300 million. It also restructured the U.S. marketing deal for its Visudyne anti-blindness treatment. ($1=$1.03 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Peter Galloway)