Roche has posted a strong set of figures for the first half of 2009 this morning, with turnover rising 9% to just over 20 billion Swiss francs, while net income, excluding exceptional items relating to the Genentech acquisition, climbed 11% to 5.21 billion francs, about $4.9 billion.

Sales at the Swiss major’s pharmaceuticals division reached 19.10 billion francs, a rise of 11%. As usual, the oncology franchise performed well, with Avastin (bevacizumab) recording an increase of 29% to 3.09 billion francs, while MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab) grew 8% to 3.10 billion francs.

The most impressive performance, however, came from the influenza jab Tamiflu (oseltamivir), sales of which leapt 203% to 1.01 billion francs. The rise was due to the rapid worldwide spread of swine flu and orders from Japan leapt over 1,500% and nearly 870% in Europe and the rest of the world, other than the USA where Tamiflu sales rose just 11%. Roche will expand Tamiflu production to 400 million packs annually by start of 2010.

Herceptin (trastuzumab) was up 10% to 2.65 billion francs, while Tarceva (erlotinib) sales grew 10% to 643 million francs. Xeloda (capecitabine) turnover was up 11% to 626 million francs.

Of Roche’s other products, sales in the USA of Lucentis (ranibizumab), for wet age-related macular degeneration, increased 21% to 573 million francs, while the hepatitis C treatment Pegasys (peginterferon alfa) was up 10% to 842 million francs. On the negative side, the transplantation product CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) fell 8% to 927 million francs, while combined sales of Roche’s NeoRecormon and its Chugai unit’s Epogin (epoetin beta), for anaemia, declined 10% to 789 million francs.

Roche chief executive Severin Schwan said he was particularly pleased with the “excellent progress we’ve made in integrating” Genentech, saying that work at the latter’s research and early development centre in South San Francisco “has continued seamlessly with the existing management team”. He added that Roche will be realising synergies from the merger “sooner than originally anticipated”.

Roche now expects to achieve annual savings of 1 billion francs from the integration of Genentech by 2011, and expects to have returned to a net cash position by 2015. Good news for shareholders who helped push the Basel-based group’s shares up 2.7% to 158.40 francs by 11am this morning, UK time.