Takeda says it may double imports of Moderna shots to help accelerate Japan vaccination

·2 min read
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co's logo is seen at its new headquarters in Tokyo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Takeda Pharmaceutical Co on Tuesday said it may double imports of Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine to help Japan speed up COVID-19 inoculation efforts that have trailed most wealthy countries.

Japan's biggest drugmaker is handling the imports, and discussions are underway with the government to double shipments to 100 million, Takeda CEO Christophe Weber said.

"Japan is behind. So our goal now is to really support an acceleration of the vaccination," Weber said in a conference call after the company released full-year earnings results.

The company had reported positive interim results from a domestic trial of the Moderna shot, and Weber said he expected approval to come "very soon".

The COVID-19 pandemic has defined much of Takeda's activities in the past 12 months. This time last year, the company was promoting a plasma treatment for the disease, which ultimately failed in clinical trials.

Takeda is also handling domestic approval and production of 250 million doses of Novavax Inc's vaccine candidate. The Japanese government wants to use 150 million, with the remainder being dispatched elsewhere, Weber said.

For the year ended on March 31, Takeda reported a five-fold increase in operating profit versus the previous year, driven by sales of its Entyvio colitis treatment and other mainstay drugs.

Operating profit was 509 billion yen ($4.68 billion), compared with earlier guidance of 434 billion yen and a consensus estimate of 567 billion yen from a Refinitiv poll of 14 analysts.

Takeda also exceeded its goal for asset sales this year to reduce debt following a $59 billion purchase of Shire Plc in 2019. It has off-loaded about $12.9 billion in assets so far, mostly in over-the-counter and consumer goods, as part of a renewed focus on prescription drugs.

Among the biggest divestitures was Takeda's 227.7 billion yen sale of its Japanese consumer healthcare company to funds controlled by the Blackstone Group Inc.

Takeda's shares slipped 0.2% ahead of the results versus a 3.1% slide in the market overall.

($1 = 108.8600 yen)

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Kim Coghill, Jane Merriman and Tom Hogue)

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