Swiss Basilea says profits still 2-3 years away

ZURICH Swiss drugmaker Basilea expects to move into profit by 2018, counting on new anti-infection drugs to help mitigate setbacks such as last month’s collapse of efforts to win U.S. approval for an eczema treatment.

On Monday, Basilea reported a full-year 2015 net loss of 61.6 million Swiss francs ($60.9 million), bringing total losses since 2011 to nearly 250 million francs.

The Basel-based company, whose strategy hinges on winning partners to sell drugs it develops, could lose up to 60 million francs on an operating level this year, it said.

To spur a turnaround, Chief Financial Officer Donato Spota remains optimistic following the 2015 rollout of two new drugs: Zevtera, an antibiotic for severe lung infections, and Cresemba, to fight rare but deadly fungal infections.

“We’re expecting to reach profitability within the next two to three years,” Spota said in a telephone interview.

The shares rose 3 percent by 1430 GMT, as analysts from J. Safra Sarasin said Cresemba’s 13.9 million francs in royalties following its U.S. approval last March “suggests a healthy launch.”

Basilea will not be able to count on U.S. milestone payments from partner GlaxoSmithKline from its eczema drug Toctino to help reach profitability.

The British company in January abandoned its bid to win U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the treatment.

GSK sells Toctino outside the United States, where the drug accounted for nearly 75 percent of Basilea’s 52.8 million francs in total revenue in 2015.

Chief Executive Ronald Scott is now studying the implications of the GSK decision and added that Toctino’s U.S. fate will be decided before April.

“If we were to take the drug back, then we would look for an additional partner,” Scott said in the interview. “We will not file the drug in the United States by ourselves.”

Basilea has 364.7 million francs in cash, money the company said is needed to pay for its share of winning U.S. approval for Zevtera — a process that could take three years — as well as to develop a pair of investigational cancer drugs.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Keith Weir)

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