AstraZeneca ups its solo success


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AstraZeneca posted its second sales upgrade in four months yesterday as the drug giant proved how much it is suited to unmarried life after rejecting Pfizer’s £70bn takeover attempt this spring.

The company was boosted by delays in the production of generic alternatives to its blockbuster ulcer and heartburn treatment, Nexium, in the US market. That helped sales in the third quarter rise by 5 per cent to $6.5bn (£4.1bn), a third consecutive quarter of revenue growth.

Other top-sellers were its heart drug Brilinta, which had a 78 per cent surge in sales, and its diabetes portfolio,

AstraZeneca now expects revenues for 2014– when stripping out currency movements – to be higher by “low single digits” than last year. That’s an upgrade from an earlier forecast of no growth, which in turn was an improvement on the original prediction of a sales fall in the low-to-mid single digits. But net profit fell to $254m in the third quarter, from $1.25bn a year ago, as AstraZeneca nearly doubled the money poured into research and development. While fighting off its American rival, AstraZeneca promised a  75 per cent rise in revenues to  $45bn by 2023; City analysts forecast that this year’s figure will hit just $25.9bn.

Under takeover rules, Pfizer can mount a fresh bid for AstraZeneca from the end of this month. Astra’s shares fell 28.5p to 4,591.5p yesterday.