Turning point for drugs giant as sales recover: Astrazeneca reports booming demand

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Astrazeneca boss Pascal Soriot hailed a turning point as his firm reported rising sales of its drugs.

After eight years of decline, the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant said booming demand for new medicines meant it could expect sustained growth.

Sales of its drugs rose 8 per cent to £4billion in the third quarter of the year.

Soriot, 59, said that the new products were picking up the slack from older ones. The Frenchman added: ‘This is really a major milestone for us. When we set out the new strategy a few years back, not everyone believed we could return to growth.

After eight years of decline, Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant Astrazeneca said booming demand for new medicines meant it could expect sustained growth

After eight years of decline, Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant Astrazeneca said booming demand for new medicines meant it could expect sustained growth

After eight years of decline, Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant Astrazeneca said booming demand for new medicines meant it could expect sustained growth

‘It’s clear that we’ve achieved an important inflection point. I’m often reminded we’ve been in sales decline since 2010.

‘And for the first time now, we experienced a very strong quarter. In the coming quarters and years, we’ll make it sustainable.’

The promising update sent shares up 4 per cent though overall revenue and profit fell.

This was because takings from asset sales and partnerships – short-term measures it resorted to while it waited to deploy new drugs – fell by 95 per cent.

Profits were down 29 per cent to £1billion in the third quarter and 31 per cent to £2.7billionn in the first nine months of the year.

When Soriot was brought in as chief executive in 2012, Astra faced a steep loss of revenues as patents for some of its best-sellers expired.

Since then, it has seen more than half of its sales wiped out.

But Soriot made re-stocking the cupboard the top priority, with supporters also crediting him with backing the most promising drugs that were in development. 

He also fought off a £70billion takeover bid from US rival Pfizer four years ago, urging investors to keep the faith in Astra’s pipeline.

Yesterday, analysts said his strategy was at last paying off. Astra saw huge rises in sales of its new medicines during the quarter, with cancer drugs Lynparza, Tagrisso and Imfinzi leading the charge.

Cardiovascular, renal and metabolism drugs Brilinta and Farxiga flew off the shelves and Soriot said respiratory drugs Fasenra and Pulmicort were doing ‘extremely well’.

China remained a stand-out market, with sales rising by 32 per cent in the quarter.

Overall, Soriot said new medicine sales grew 76 per cent, or £1.4billion, in the nine months to September 30.

However total revenue for that period fell 6 per cent to £12billion.

Nicholas Hyett, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘On the face of it these numbers are far from pretty. 

But scratch the surface and Astra is far from sickly. Its new drugs are flying off pharmacy shelves, particularly in oncology.

‘Astra still needs to get debt back under control before it can start growing returns to shareholders, but chief executive Pascal Soriot isn’t wrong when he says today is an important day.’

Graham Doyle, an analyst at Liberum, said: ‘The continued outperformance from the new product launches and core diabetes portfolio should be well received.’



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