* Company sees 2017 revenue broadly in line with 2013
* Consensus forecast $22.5 bln in 2017 vs $25.8 bln in 2013
* Diabetes deal and new drugs to offset patent expiries
* Cancer immunotherapy combination data expected in 2014/15
* Shares in AstraZeneca rise 1.6 percent
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON, Jan 14 AstraZeneca expects new
drugs and a recent diabetes deal to offset a wave of patent
expiries and return it to growth faster than analysts predict,
with 2017 revenue likely to be broadly in line with the 2013
The company's forecast implies a potential $3 billion
upgrade to the consensus estimate from analysts and marks an
attempt to call a bottom to a sales decline driven by the loss
of exclusivity on several top-selling medicines.
Britain's second-biggest drugmaker is already suffering from
generic competition to its antipsychotic Seroquel, while its
Nexium treatment for excess stomach acid loses U.S. patent cover
this year. Top-selling Crestor, for high cholesterol, faces
competition from cheap copycat drugs in 2016.
The patent expiries leave AstraZeneca's sales on a near-term
downward spiral at a time when most of its rivals have put their
biggest patent losses behind them.
Shares in the group rose 1.6 percent by 1215 GMT on the more
upbeat outlook, against a 0.3 percent decline for the European
Chief Executive Pascal Soriot, who has been leading the
company for a little more than a year, will set out the new
revenue guidance in a presentation at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare
conference in San Francisco later on Tuesday.
The company will then give a more detailed update on its
progress in full-year results on Feb. 6.
The consensus of analyst forecasts compiled by Thomson
Reuters is for 2017 revenue of $22.5 billion, down from the
$25.8 billion estimated for 2013. However, a number of the 2017
forecasts pre-date the diabetes drug deal struck last month that
is already expected to add some $1 billion to $2 billion to
Citigroup analyst Andrew Baum said the positive medium-term
outlook reinforced his "more constructive thesis" for the stock,
adding that he expects Soriot to strike more earnings-boosting
deals this year.
Panmure Gordon's Savvas Neophytou remains more wary,
pointing out that Soriot's predecessor, David Brennan, had made
a similar attempt to talk up AstraZeneca's longer-term
"In our view, management is stepping onto thin ice with this
same sort of guidance," Neophytou said, pointing out the
previous management's failure to hit its forecasts.
AstraZeneca has become more confident about its revenue
outlook after the $4 billion deal last month to buy
Bristol-Myers Squibb's share of a diabetes joint
venture. The acquisition is expected to complete in the first
quarter of 2014 and will boost sales immediately.
Mark Clark of Deutsche Bank said this was set to lift
analysts' revenue forecasts significantly, suggesting that a
more realistic "adjusted consensus" for 2017 was around $24.3
billion rather than $22.5 billion.
Soriot has been striking a number of bolt-on deals to refill
the company's thin pipeline of new medicines and accelerating
in-house research programmes.
The group now has 11 new-drug programmes in late-stage Phase
III testing, almost double the number a year ago, and 27 in
Hopes are particularly high for its cancer research, where
it has started trials for immunotherapy combination treatments
for which the first results are anticipated in 2014/15.
AstraZeneca is behind the likes of Bristol-Myers, Roche
and Merck & Co in the race to develop
immunotherapies - a hot new area of cancer research - but it is
betting on combination treatments to help it to catch up.
Immunotherapy, which harnesses the body's immune system to
fight cancer, has shown great promise in clinical trials and
analysts believe that the treatments may extend patients' lives
significantly and generate tens of billions of dollars in annual