The world’s number one biotechnology group Amgen unveiled a solid set of financial results for the first quarter of 2006, with a double-digit rise in growth following strong performances by some of its key products. Even so, shares in the group slipped just under 1% to $70.31 in after hours extended trading last night, after total revenues fell shy of Wall Street expectations.

Amgen booked a net profit of $1 billion, or $0.82 a share, for the period, compared with $854 million, or $0.67 per share, for the same quarter of last year, marking a rise of 17%. But excluding special items, the company said it would have generated earnings of $0.91 cents a share, beating analysts' general expectations.

Sales for the period jumped 14% to $3.2 billion, lead by strong performances by: Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) for anaemia, up 24% to $893 million; Epogen (epoetin alfa), also for anaemia, rising 4% to $604 million; and combined global sales of its white blood cell stimulators Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) and Neupogen (filgrastim), which climbed 13% to $896 million.

On the down side, turnover of the group’s rheumatoid arthritis drug, Enbrel (etanercept), is slowing, as more and more competitors launch their rival products. The product still managed to turn in an 11% increase in sales to $658 million, but this was viewed as a disappointing result by the company and industry observers, which dragged sales under general expectations.

But all in all results were pretty solid for the period, causing Amgen to lift its original full-year earnings target by $0.05 to $3.60-$3.70, including costs related to the group’s $2.2 billion purchase of antibody specialist Abgenix earlier this year.

"We are off to a good start in 2006," remarked Kevin Sharer, the group’s chairman and chief executiver. “We saw continued growth in our marketed products, and we completed our Food and Drug Administration submission for panitumumab in third-line metastatic colorectal cancer, bringing us another step closer to making this important medicine available to patients. We also finalized our acquisition of Abgenix, which will allow us to fully realize the value of panitumumab as we develop this important cancer therapeutic for additional indications.”