Roche looks set to retain its place at the top of big pharma rankings

New consensus forecasts stretching out to 2026 see Roche easily retaining its crown as the world’s biggest drugmaker, while Bristol-Myers Squibb climbs the rankings.

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It takes a lot to move the needle at a big pharma company, but this is exactly what Bristol-Myers Squibb achieved last year through its takeover of Celgene. The acquisition added $17bn to its top line and propelled the US company from 10th to fourth position in the sales rankings tables – though the impending loss of Revlimid means such heady heights will be short-lived.

New consensus forecasts from EvaluatePharma stretching out to 2026 show Bristol slipping back to eighth place by that year. At the very top of the table the picture is forecast to remain the same in the coming years, however, with Roche easily retaining pole position.

Roche’s clear lead is somewhat surprising given that biosimilars are chipping away at the company’s suite of antibodies – Avastin, Herceptin and Rituxan. Combined sales of these huge blockbusters are expected to be eroded by more than $10bn from 2019 to 2026. The sellside forecasts growth in new products including Tecentriq, Ocrevus and Hemlibra to more than compensate, however.

In fact, projected annualised growth of 4% over this period puts Roche substantially ahead of the pack in 2026. Forecasts naturally become less reliable further out, of course, although this consensus view, constructed from equity analyst models, suggests that only another big shift in the big pharma sands could threaten the Swiss company’s dominance.

The chart above will shift again in a few months with the completion of Abbvie’s acquisition of Allergan, which will create an entity on track to take the fourth position in 2026. Once that megadeal is wrapped up, it is certainly not out of the question for Abbvie to consider further moves, as declining Humira sales will be blowing a hole in the company’s top line for years to come.

Other standout numbers in the chart above include the rate of Astrazeneca’s projected topline growth. At 8% a year this is highly impressive considering that it is largely organically driven, and due to the blockbuster oncology products Tagrisso, Lynparza, Imfinzi and Calquence.  

At the other end of the scale on CAGR is Gilead, which is barely projected to grow its revenues over the period. The company is famously under pressure to strike deals, but has steadfastly stuck to bolt-ons to date. Like Abbvie, this is another contender for making a more expansive move.

The coronavirus pandemic is making the job of forecasting particularly tough right now. But, Covid-19 or not, it seems clear that Roche will lead the pack in 2026.

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