By Steven Scheer and Carl O'Donnell
JERUSALEM/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd <TEVA.TA> on Thursday expressed confidence in its ability to continue paying down its huge debt burden even if it is forced to pay billions of dollars to settle thousands of U.S. opioid lawsuits.
Attorneys general of four U.S. states had agreed on a proposed settlement under which Israel-based Teva would provide $23 billion (£17.94 billion) worth of generic Suboxone and pay $250 million in cash over 10 years.
Reuters reported that the generic Subaxone that Teva plans to give away as part of its settlement will likely cost the company far less than the $23 billion figure put forth by Teva based on the way the drugmaker plans to account for the value of the treatment.
Teva Chief Executive Kare Schultz said such an agreement supports those suffering from drug addiction and is far preferable to many separate lawsuits by cities and counties.
"It also means that the burden to our cash flow will be over a 10-year period. That's why it's really possible for us to bring a significant benefit to society while still serving our debt and staying in business," Schultz said in an interview with Reuters.
Teva's debt load soared after it paid more than $40 billion in 2016 to buy Allergan’s generic drugs business.
Its debt load fell to $26.9 billion at the end of September from $28.7 billion three months earlier. At the same time, Teva said it remained on track to achieve a two-year restructuring target of $3 billion in spending reductions.
Schultz noted that Teva sought to refinance its debt schedule but not add to it and that any bond refinancing would not raise its interest rate burden over a manageable amount.
Teva, the world's largest generic drugmaker, earned 58 cents per diluted share excluding one-time items in the July-September period, down from 68 cents a year earlier and largely in line with expectations.
Revenue fell 6% to $4.26 billion due to generic competition for its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone and declines in sales in the United States, Russia and Japan, although it posted gains in some of its newly launched drugs.
Its shares, which had taken a beating this year, jumped 9.9% in New York after the company nudged up its full-year earnings guidance.
For 2019, the company raised its forecast for adjusted earnings per share (EPS) to $2.30-$2.50 from $2.20-$2.50 and revenue to $17.2 billion to $17.4 billion from $17.0 billion to $17.4 billion. Analysts are forecasting EPS of $2.38 on revenue of $17.18 billion.
Revenue in North America dipped 9% to $2.05 billion, with North American sales of Copaxone down 41% to $271 million. Its new migraine drug Ajovy had revenue of $25 million, while sales of Huntington's treatment Austedo rose to $105 million from $62 million.
Schultz said that sales of Ajovy should get a boost from a new auto-injector delivery system it hopes will receive U.S. clearance in the next few months.
He said that 2020 will show a small increase in operating profit due to sales growth of Ajovy, Austedo and generic drugs, while the drag from lower Copaxone sales will largely subside.
Teva said it had legal settlements of $468 million in the third quarter, mainly in connection with U.S. opioid cases.
Teva also named Eli Kalif as its new chief financial officer effective Dec. 22.
The company is also being investigated by U.S. authorities for price fixing but Schultz said he believed there was no evidence of collusion.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer in Jerusalem and Carl O'Donnell in New York; additional reporting by Aro Rabinovitch; Editing by Mark Potter and Lisa Shumaker)