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AstraZenecaculls jobs as fears mount

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said yesterday it will slash a further 8,000 jobs worldwide over the next four years.

The cuts come on top of 12,600 jobs already eliminated around the world under the company’s aggressive cost-cutting programme, designed to achieve savings of £1.2bn by 2014.

The UK’s second-largest drugmaker did not say how many jobs would go in the UK where it employs 11,000 people, out of 63,000 worldwide. The cuts will be across its sales and marketing, business infrastructure, research and development, and supply chain operations. Some R&D sites may be shut.

The news came as AstraZeneca reported strong annual results yesterday but warned of a tough few years to come. “The next five years will be challenging for the industry and for the company, as its revenue base transitions through a period of exclusivity losses and new product launches,” said chief executive David Brennan.

He said revenues would suffer as AstraZeneca’s breast cancer drug Arimidex and its asthma medicine for children, Pulmicort Respules, come off patent and face cheap generic competition. But he was confident that the group could increase market share for the drugs that retain exclusivity. Sales could fall in the “mid-single digit” this year, said analysts. AstraZeneca made a profit before tax of £6.7bn for last year, up 24 per cent from 2008. Annual sales climbed four per cent to £32.8bn, fuelled by sales of cholesterol drug Crestor and the company’s nasal spray vaccine for swine flu.

The drugmaker plans to buy back up to $1bn (£620m) shares this year, less than some observers had hoped.