October 24, 2019 / 6:17 AM / 2 months ago

AstraZeneca raises sales forecast after surge in cancer drugs

(Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) raised its annual sales forecast on Thursday for the second time this year after a surge in revenue from new cancer drugs and solid growth in China helped drive a fifth consecutive quarter of gains.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a sign at an AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, England May 19, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble

The London-listed drug company, which halted nearly a decade of falling sales in 2018, reported growth of up to 80% for a raft of newer drugs in its portfolio, including treatments for diabetes, asthma and cancer.

Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said another strong performance from new medicines was accompanied by impressive results in key markets, most notably in China, the United States and Japan. Shares in the company were 3.8% higher by 0810 GMT.

Sales of cancer drugs leapt 48% in the three months to Sept. 30 to $2.33 billion, accounting for 38% of total sales, with revenue from lung cancer drug Tagrisso surging 78%. Growth in China slowed but remained at 40% with sales of $1.28 billion.

AstraZeneca said it now expected product sales for 2019 to rise by a low to mid-teens percentage, up from a previous forecast of low double-digit growth, while maintaining its outlook for core earnings.

The company has moved deeper into cancer therapy through a range of tie-ups, product acquisitions and outright buyouts of smaller rivals. Its treatments have shown promising results in many studies, pointing to a strong pipeline for future sales.

Western drugmakers have also profited from partnerships with local players in China, where AstraZeneca’s sales have doubled since 2012, as well as a softening of the regulatory environment for pharmaceutical firms.

Like Swiss rival Roche (ROG.S), which lifted its 2019 sales target last week due to strong Chinese demand, AstraZeneca has cautioned that current levels of growth will not be sustainable in the longer-term.

AstraZeneca beat expectations for both profit and sales in the quarter, with product sales topping $6.13 billion, well ahead of a consensus forecast of $5.86 billion.

Core earnings reached 99 cents per share, above a consensus provided by the company of 96 cents per share.

The company also reiterated its stance that it was well-prepared for Britain’s looming departure from the European Union, even if it were to do so without a withdrawal deal.

(For an interactive graphic AstraZeneca's new drug sales, click here here)

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and David Clarke

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