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Japan's Takeda's profit slips 13%, pipeline bolsters outlook

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co's logo is seen at its new headquarters in Tokyo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co posted a 13% drop in operating earnings for the nine months ended December but kept its profit outlook for the fiscal year unchanged as it works to bolster its drugs pipeline.

For the first three quarters of the year, operating profit slid to 401.9 billion yen ($3.12 billion) from a year earlier when results were boosted by one-time gains on asset sales. Takeda's annual operating profit forecast of 530 billion yen already lags a Refinitiv analysts' consensus forecast of 593.9 billion yen.

The company said core operating profit, which strips out non-recurring items, increased 26% in the nine-month period.

European Union regulators in December approved Takeda's vaccine for dengue fever, branded as QDENGA. The vaccine was earlier approved in Indonesia, while U.S. regulators are reviewing it on a priority basis.

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Takeda expects the vaccine to generate $700 million to $1.6 billion in sales over the course of several years.

Also in December, the company agreed to buy an experimental psoriasis drug from U.S.-based Nimbus Therapeutics for as much as $6 billion, demonstrating its willingness to spend big to shore up its pipeline as mainstay products lose patent protection.

Until that deal, Takeda had been aggressively cutting debt and selling off non-core assets following its $59 billion takeover of Shire Plc in 2019.

"Our robust cash flow and strong financial position enabled us to make substantive progress in deleveraging even as we continued to invest for growth," Takeda said in a statement, adding its net debt to core earnings ratio has improved to 2.5 times as of the end of the third quarter.

($1=128.6100 yen)

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Elaine Hardcastle)