Belgium’s UCB says it has enjoyed a good second half of the year and sales should exceed 2006’s levels though next year’s revenues will be hit by the US patent expiry on the blockbuster antihistamine Zyrtec.

The Brussels-headquartered group stated that its 2007 revenues should “slightly exceed” last year’s figure of 3.5 billion euros, while recurring earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation will be more than 720 million euros. Net profit should come in at over the 100 million euro mark.

For 2008, revenues are forecast to fall back to about 3.4 billion euros due to the expiry of the patent on Zyrtec (cetirizine) in the USA. Recurring EBITDA is expected to be about 650 million euros and net profit should again exceed 100 million euros.

Chief executive Roch Doliveux said that "UCB is well on track” to deliver on its targets for 2007, adding that “with our promising pipeline, we are making significant progress to become the next generation biopharma leader." Speaking of pipelines, much will depend on whether the firm gets Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) onto the market.

UCB received a jolt last month when the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use adopted a negative opinion on the firm’s market authorisation application for Cimzia in the treatment of patients with Crohn's disease. An appeal was made immediately and a final decision is expected during the first half of 2008.

The firm also noted that the regulatory application of Cimzia in rheumatoid arthritis in the USA has been submitted and “acceptance is expected in January”. A filing in Europe is planned for the first half of the year.

Jacobs stepping down as chairman
UCB also announced that Karel Boone, an independent director since 2000, will replace chairman Georges Jacobs from April 24 next year. Mr Jacobs, who is not seeking re-election, said that "after 39 years in this company, 17 as CEO and three as chairman of the board, I think it is time to go”, having ensured “a smooth transition” for the firm “towards its new destiny”.