Glaxo to miss growth targets

GLAXO WELLCOME, the pharmaceutical giant, yesterday dropped its commitment to delivering 10 per cent annual sales and earnings growth this year. The U-turn wiped 11 per cent off the its shares, cutting Glaxo's value from pounds 64bn to pounds 58bn.

At its annual meeting in May, Glaxo said it was on track, even though first-quarter sales were been worse than expected.

Yesterday it blamed disappointing sales of Imitrex, a migraine drug, and Zyban, which helps people give up smoking, and weak Asian markets for abandoning its goals. It had previously expected Imitrex and Zyban to offset declining revenues from Zantac, the anti-ulcerant which lost its patent in 1997.

Sir Richard Sykes, chairman, said Glaxo could not promise to deliver 10 per cent profits growth in constant currency terms, but there could be a beneficial effect from the millennium. "I am not happy to say we're not going to meet the commitment, which we have had on the table for over two years," he said.

Between a week's and a month's sales could be brought forward ahead of the millennium because of worries the Y2K bug will hit medical supply chains, he said. The company had still believed in May it could meet its goals, he added. Imitrex was expected to benefit from marketing campaigns by rivals, but this had not happened. Glaxo is now to boost its 4,000- strong US sales force by about 1,000 people.

There was no question of people resigning, Glaxo said. "I hope I don't sound arrogant, but I never considered resigning," said chief executive Robert Ingram. "We wanted a challenge. We could have fudged it, but we're not doing that." The shares fell 199p to 1553p.