AstraZeneca's woes continue

AstraZeneca has admitted it faces another difficult year of falling sales in 2013 after patent expiries last year meant revenues slumped 17 per cent to £27.9bn.

Pascal Soriot, the new chief executive of Britain's second-biggest drug maker, was parachuted in from rival Roche last year after David Brennan quit under pressure from disappointed shareholders. Mr Soriot warned that revenues will face a "mid-to-high single-digit percentage decline" this year. That follows pre-tax profits for 2012 coming in 38 per cent lower than the previous year, at £7.7bn.

The news was even worse than City analysts had expected, and the shares fell 99.5p to 3,053p.

Astra's revenue stream is drying up as some of its key drugs are having to compete against cheaper generic rivals. The blockbusters Nexium and Crestor lose the crucial United States patent protection in 2014 and 2016.