AstraZeneca raises sales outlook as rival drugs are hit by delays

Sales in the third quarter jumped 5% to $6.5 billion

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The single life suits drugs giant AstraZeneca.

The British pharma company posted its second sales upgrade in four months after rejecting Pfizer’s £70 billion takeover attempt this spring.

The firm was boosted by delays hitting the production of generic alternatives to its blockbuster ulcer and heartburn treatment, Nexium, in the crucial US market.

That helped sales in the third quarter rise 5 per cent to $6.5 billion (£4.06 billion), a third-consecutive quarter of revenue growth. Other top-sellers were heart drug Brilinta, which had a 78 per cent surge in sales, and its diabetes portfolio.

AstraZeneca now expects 2014’s revenues — when stripping out the effects of currency movements — to be higher by “low single digits” than last year.


That’s an upgrade from an earlier forecast of no growth, and comes after an original prediction that sales would fall by low-to-mid single digits was boosted in July by an announcement that annual sales would be flat.

But net profit fell to $254 million in the third quarter, from $1.25 billion a year earlier, as AstraZeneca poured nearly double the amount of money into research and development as it did in the same time in 2013.

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At the start of this year, the FTSE 100 drugmaker was languishing in intensive care as its biggest medicines fell off patent and a string of cancer drug hopes failed at trials, triggering a share-price plunge.

Then, in May, Viagra-maker Pfizer began its prolonged and ultimately unsuccessful takeover attempt.

In fighting off that bid, AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot promised a 75 per cent increase in revenues to  $45 billion by 2023 — but there’s a long way to go: City analysts forecast this year’s figure will hit just $25.9 billion.

Under UK takeover rules, Pfizer can mount a fresh bid for AstraZeneca from the end of this month.

Today Soriot cheered his “rapid transformation” of the drugmaker, but its shares fell 124p to 4494.75p.