By Tan Ee Lyn
(Reuters) - Allergan Inc, maker of wrinkle treatment Botox, eye drops and obesity treatments, said it will rely less on the United States for revenue in coming years as its products gain wider acceptance in Asia, particularly China.
The company on Thursday announced 6.4 percent earnings growth for the fourth-quarter of last year, but forecast lower-than-anticipated sales for 2012 as austerity measures in Europe keep a lid on demand and force the company to hold down prices.
Ian Bell, corporate vice-president and president for Asia-Pacific, was upbeat on growth prospects across Asia, with China appearing to be the main driver.
Bell told Reuters in an interview that cosmetic clinics were popping up in big hospitals in major Chinese cities, presenting an opportunities for Allergan's aesthetics products.
He said sales of Botox for aesthetic use in China in 2011 were encouraging and Allergan was trialling its skin filler Juvederm, hoping to make it available in China in 2-3 years.
"China is going to grow very quickly over the next decade. We are starting somewhat late; Botox was only approved over a year ago and therefore levels of penetration are low," he said.
"We have a big part of our portfolio that is privately paid, where healthcare reform is irrelevant," said Bell, referring to China's healthcare restructuring targeted at making more cheap drugs widely available.
Sales in Asia-Pacific grew 27 percent year on year in the third quarter of 2011, with "double-digit growth in Q4," said an Allergan spokeswoman in Singapore.
"(Sales are) 60 percent the U.S. and 40 percent the rest of the world. The rest of the world is growing quicker than the U.S. right now and within those markets, Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing for us," said Bell. "We see the trend continuing ... and as for those percentages and our reliance on the U.S., we believe that over time it is going to diminish."
Allergan obtained approvals in Asia in 2011 to use Botox to treat chronic migraines in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam.
"The biggest market is Australia and we are now in negotiations with the authorities there to get it reimbursed. We hope to achieve that this year, so by end of 2012 we expect to be in a strong position to drive sales," Bell said.
(Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn in SINGAPORE; Editing by Chris Lewis)