Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has posted fourth-quarter net income that is below analysts’ expectations but its shares rose as the Jerusalem-headquartered generics drugmaker is confident that it is going to enjoy stellar growth over the next couple of years.

Net income rose 51% to $460 million, or $0.56 per share (+24%), less than analyst consensus estimates, while sales leapt 63% to $2.28 billion, helped by the contribution of its Ivax Corp subsidiary and clones of Wyeth's Effexor (venlafaxine) and GlaxoSmithKline/Biovail’s Wellbutrin XL (bupropion), both antidepressants.

As for Teva’s branded products, multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) had another strong quarter with sales up 17% to $378 million, while the firm's recently-launched Parkinson's disease drug Azilect (rasagiline) brought in $19 million.

However the secret of Teva’s success has been its ability to secure 180-days’ exclusivity for new generic launches in the USA under the country's 'first-to-file' laws. As of February 1, Teva had 162 product applications awaiting final US Food and Drug Administration approval and believes it will be the first to file on 42 of these, relating to products whose annual US branded sales are over $36 billion, and outgoing chief executive Israel Makov said the company hopes to receive 30-40 approvals in 2007.

Teva said that it expects sales in 2007 to exceed $9 billion and earnings per share to be $2.07-$2.19, compared with 2006 turnover of $8.4 billion, with EPS of $2.30 (excluding acquisition-related charges). A useful contribution could also come from the firm’s branded asthma inhaler ProAir (albuterol sulfate) which may get approval this year and could bring in $400-500 million.

Chief financial officer Dan Suesskind said that 2008 will be particularly interesting as sales are set to pass $10 billion with EPS of over $2.50.