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A sign at a diagnostics site for Swiss

By Michael Shields

Diagnostics division sales grew by half due to demand for COVID tests and strong momentum in routine testing, Roche said, compensating for a 3% decline in pharmaceuticals sales, although drug sales returned to growth in the second quarter as new medicines performed well.

Core earnings per share rose 6% to 10.56 Swiss francs.

Roche maintained its forecast for 2021 sales to grow at a low- to mid-single-digit rate at constant exchange rates, with core earnings per share growing about the same as sales. It expects to increase its dividend, it added.

“We have achieved good results in the first half, primarily thanks to the demand for our new medicines and COVID-19 tests. The Pharma Division began to grow again in the second quarter. The base diagnostics business shows strong momentum,” Chief Executive Severin Schwan said.

“As expected the demand for COVID-19 tests peaked in the second quarter and is likely to decrease in the second half of the year even though this of course depends on how the pandemic will develop and significant uncertainties remain,” Schwan told a call with reporters.

“This virus will stay with us, it will continue to mutate, and as such there will be a continued need for vaccines, for new vaccines and boosters, as well as tests and medicines.”

Roche offers tests for everything from active COVID-19 infections to antibody tests that document immunity after somebody has been infected or vaccinated. They have been the driving force behind Roche’s growth since the pandemic began.

Roche’s oncology business had still not returned to pre-pandemic levels, he said.

Roche shares were indicated 0.7% higher in pre-market activity.

($1 = 0.9174 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Silke Koltrowitz and Edmund Blair)

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