French giant, Sanofi-Aventis, produced an expectation-beating set of full-year 2004 results, with an 18% rise in net income to 5.2 billion euros, and said that growth would be sustained into 2005.

For 2004 – the first year since the merger between Sanofi-Synthelabo and Aventis – gross profit rose 5% to 19.4 billion euros, on the back of a 5% hike in sales to 25.4 billion euros. Revenues were boosted by strong contributions from super-aspirin Plavix (clopidogrel) and the anti-hypertensive Avapro (irbesartan). The company had already revealed a strong fourth quarter performance from these drugs, in addition to the thrombosis drug, Lovenox (enoxaparin), and the anti-cancer agent, Taxotere (docetaxel) [[26/01/05f]]. However, future sales growth will likely be dependent on the outcome of patent litigation over Plavix [[25/02/05g]]. Although Sanofi-Aventis says it remains confident that the compound is protected until 2011, generics manufacturer, Dr Reddy’s, claims that three patents covering Plavix in the USA are invalid.

For the coming year, Sanofi-Aventis expects sales growth ahead of the pharmaceutical market as a whole, with EPS in line with the rate achieved in 2004. Pre-tax savings for the twelve-months are expected to top 960 million euros, rising to 1.6 billion euros at the end of 2006.