City File: Zeneca debut

ZENECA, the drugs and agro-chemicals group that split off from ICI last month, will hit the ground running with its results debut on Thursday. Analysts forecast pre-tax profits in the region of pounds 330m for the half-year, with pharmaceuticals making a healthier showing than the agro-chemicals arm, which has been plagued by a tough market and bad weather.

Pharmaceuticals are expected to contribute nearly 72 per cent of Zeneca's profits for the second quarter, though sales of Tenormin, its ageing heart drug, have slumped 45 per cent a year after expiry of the patent. Sales of Zestril, its other main heart product, and other drugs have gone some way to compensate for the fall, but it has not been enough.

Zeneca's longer-term prospects are for earnings growth of 5 per cent. It is not bad for a struggling sector, but not up with the big boys.

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