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Swiss drug maker Roche enjoys strong profit, expects continued growth in 2014

GENEVA - Swiss drug maker Roche saw its full-year profits boosted by strong demand for its cancer medicines and diagnostic tests used by clinical laboratories, the company reported Thursday.

Roche, the world's biggest manufacturer of cancer drugs, said it had net income of 11.2 billion Swiss francs ($12.4 billion) in 2013, an 18 per cent rise against 9.5 billion francs the year before.

The news sent shares of Roche up 4.3 per cent to close at 249.30 francs on the Zurich exchange Thursday.

"2013 was a very good year for Roche," CEO Severin Schwan said. "We exceeded our financial targets with strong demand for our existing products and positive uptake of recently launched medicines and diagnostics."

The company, based in Basel, Switzerland, said earnings are expected to continue to rise in 2014, with strong sales of a breast cancer medicine, Perjeta, and new products such as leukemia drug Gazyva and another breast cancer medicine, Kadcyla. The company has been investing in a lot of new drugs to replace its aging blockbusters, the drugs whose annual sales top $1 billion.

Schwan said the launch of Perjeta and Kadcyla added a new generation of treatments for women with a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer, and another highlight was Gazyva for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

The company said it expects low to mid-single digit growth in sales and a further increase in its dividend this year.

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