City File: Old drugs keep SB in rude health

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THE sales force at SmithKline Beecham has just been voted the best in the pharmaceutical industry. Certainly its success in revitalising old drugs such as Augmentin, the antibiotic, and Tagamet, the ulcer treatment, has shown other pharmaceutical companies a clean pair of heels.

The group's second-quarter figures should show more strong growth, with pre-tax profits up at least 15 per cent to pounds 290m. This will have been helped by the success of the hepatitis vaccine, Engerix B, which has gained from both a vaccination programme in the US and problems besetting one of its competitors.

The City reckons growth will slow in the second half, but profits for the year should be comfortably ahead at pounds 1.3bn. SB's shares fell 6p to 415p amid a general downgrading of the pharmaceutical sector on Friday. This only makes them better value.