AstraZeneca lifts views as Shire shines

City A.M. Reporter
ASTRAZENECA yesterday raised its 2011 earnings outlook and promised to hand more cash back to shareholders, following the sale of its Astra Tech dental unit.

Second-quarter sales rose a modest three per cent in the second quarter as revenue growth from key medicines slowed and generic competition increased.

Britain’s second-biggest drugmaker faces dwindling sales of heartburn pill Nexium and decelerating growth of cholesterol fighter Crestor, which could worsen with the arrival of generic copies of Pfizer’s Lipitor later this year.

Sales in the quarter were $8.43bn  (£5.16bn) and the company generated core pretax profit of $3.22bn, equivalent to core earnings per share (EPS) down three per cent at $1.73, it said yesterday.

Analysts had expected sales of $8.24bn and core EPS, which excludes some charges, of $1.72.

Meanwhile, rival firm Shire reported a better-than-expected rise in second-quarter revenue and earnings, reflecting strong demand for its hyperactivity medicines and treatments for rare diseases.

The company, which has built its drugs portfolio through acquisition, posted a 25 per cent rise in revenue to $1.06bn.

Shares in AstraZeneca lifted 0.2 per cent to 3016.5p while Shire shares rose 4.2 per cent to close yesterday at 2136p.