Amgen Earnings Call Nuggets: the Bundle Rate and Dividends vs. Buybacks

Amgen Inc (NASDAQ:AMGN) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

The Bundle Rate

Robyn Karnauskas – Deutsche Bank: I guess, my first question just comment along there has been some talk around the bundle and maybe how the bundle rate might change given the new fiscal cliff law. Maybe you could talk a little bit about what you factored into your guidance and how you are thinking about that?

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Robert A. Bradway – President and COO: I think there are couple of things in there. One, related to ESAs and then it sounds like you are asking also about Sensipar. So, Tony, why don’t you address Robyn’s question?

Anthony Hooper – EVP, Global Commercial Operations: So, while the CBO estimate that provisions to the ESRD bundle payment system could save about $4.9 billion over 10 years. The legislation cost does not explicitly direct CMS to remove the 4.9 billion from the payment system. Importantly, CMS has allowed the opportunity to conduct their own analysis and the legislation then directs CMS to use the most recently available data on average sales prices and changes in prices for drugs and biologics when the agency rebases the ESRD PPS. I’ll remind you that Hb levels have been reduced about 10.7 and we’ve seen them stabilize at this level for the past few quarters and we do believe that further reductions would increase the number of transfusions. As regard to Sensipar, we cannot believe that the current treatment patterns with Sensipar will be affected by the delays of (indiscernible). We will, however, continue to encourage the appropriate use of Sensipar.

Dividends vs. Buybacks

Ravi Mehrotra – Credit Suisse: If I triangulate some of the numbers you had given on the buyback and (the debt) and at least 60% of return, it looks like you are implying a further increase in dividend this year that will get you to roughly 50% dividend, 50% buyback. Can you give us some color on where you see that proportion of dividend versus buyback going beyond 2013 and where you see that at least 60% of return going?

Jonathan M. Peacock – EVP and CFO: Yeah, I think, Ravi, I’ll talk in more detail about that when we come to the February 7th review. I think the focus, two things I have to remind you. One is we’ve said that we would return on average at least 60% of net income to shareholders and we’re certainly well on track to doing that and what I’ve said is going forward. Now we completed the $10 billion share repurchase program, the focus will shift more to continuing to deliver meaningful increases in the dividend and I’ll elaborate more on that when we get to February 7th.

A Closer Look: Amgen Earnings Cheat Sheet>>