Novo Nordisk earnings: ‘I could smile a long time over results like this,’ says CFO Knudsen

Novo Nordisk (NVO) reported a beat on earnings for the fourth quarter of 2023 as well as full-year, with total sales up 36% and the company’s valuation surging above $500 billion.

Novo’s blockbuster semaglutide drugs, Ozempic, for diabetes, and Wegovy, for obesity, already gave the company reasons to celebrate in the first three quarters of 2023, including surpassing the entire GDP of its home country Denmark and making it the most valuable European company.

The company reported Wegovy sales of $4.5 billion and Ozempic sales of nearly $14 billion for the full year last year. Wegovy sales helped increase total sales in its obesity division by 154% year-over-year, largely driven by US consumers.

“I could smile a long time over results like this — 36% sales growth. You don’t see that too often,” CFO Karsten Knudsen told Yahoo Finance.

He added its a historic moment for the company — and for an industry that typically sees about 2% to 4% growth per year, on average.

Novo enjoyed a first-out-the-door win in the obesity space despite manufacturing struggles, but competition is heating up with Eli Lilly (LLY), which reports earnings next week, set to compete with two drugs of its own, Mounjaro for diabetes and Zepbound for obesity. Other entrants are not too far behind, but unlikely to pose a threat for most of the year.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Injection pens of Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drug Wegovy are shown in this photo illustration, November 21, 2023. REUTERS/Victoria Klesty/Illustration/File Photo (REUTERS / Reuters)

Supply issues

While demand for Ozempic has eased, Wegovy remains on the FDA’s shortage list. Novo has committed more than $8 billion to build out manufacturing to ensure it doesn’t lose its market lead.

Knudsen told Yahoo Finance the company is ramping up production of Wegovy. The company previously slowed production of starter doses — 0.25 milligrams of semaglutide — in order to ensure patients already on the drug could continue treatment uninterrupted.

“We are, as of this week, more than doubling the supply of starter doses we are supplying the American market,” he said.

Ex-US supply will be more constrained, but the company still wants to expand into more markets.

Novo’s stock is up nearly 60% in the past year as a result of its success, climbing further on the earnings results Wednesday.

The GLP-1 products in total, including older products Saxenda and Victoza, brought in nearly $24 billion for Novo Nordisk in 2023.

Anjalee Khemlani is the senior health reporter at Yahoo Finance, covering all things pharma, insurance, care services, digital health, PBMs, and health policy and politics. Follow Anjalee on all social media platforms @AnjKhem.

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