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AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot says 2018 results herald a new era of sustained growth

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Pascal Soriot said AstraZeneca is entering a period of “sustained growth” and has one of the biopharmaceutical industry’s “most exciting and productive pipelines” as the company published positive annual results.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot. Picture: Keith Heppell
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot. Picture: Keith Heppell

New medicines and strong growth in its emerging markets, including China, helped the business return to growth in 2018, its chief executive officer said.

Product sales rose four per cent to £21billion in the year, while the fourth quarter proved particularly successful, with sales up eight per cent on a constant currency basis to $5.8billion.

Emerging markets grew 13 per cent, while China sales were up 25 per cent in the year on a constant currency basis.

Particularly successful were AstraZeneca’s cancer drugs Tagrisso and Lynparza, which each doubled their sale, while there was a promising performance from lung cancer drug Imfinzi.

These helped AstraZeneca’s oncology sales to shoot up by 49 per cent.

In other areas, there were exceptional results for asthma drug Fasenra, which reached $297million in sales in its first full year.

The CEO noted: “We beat everybody’s forecast with this product last year. It was a remarkable launch.”

Total revenue for the year fell two per cent to $22.1billion, while core operating profit was down 17 per cent to $5.7billion. The company expects profits to increase by a mid-teens percentage in 2019.

Concept drawing of second floor lab at AstraZeneca in Cambridge. (7228425)
Concept drawing of second floor lab at AstraZeneca in Cambridge. (7228425)

Mr Soriot said: “Closing the year with another strong quarter, our performance confirmed that AstraZeneca has returned to growth.

“Our new medicines performed particularly well across the therapy areas and the emerging markets business went from strength to strength.

“2019 will be a year of focus on continued pipeline delivery and flawless commercial execution. The performance of our new medicines demonstrated the ability of our commercial teams to convert the pipeline into successful medicines.

“As we recently entered a new phase in our strategic development, we have refined our organisation to position ourselves for the next phase of our journey. The changes are designed to further integrate research and development and accelerate decision-making and the launches of new medicines, consolidating what we believe is already one of the most exciting and productive pipelines in the industry.

“We are also enhancing our commercial units to increase collaboration with our R&D organisation, enabling greater commitment to our main therapy areas; we want AstraZeneca to be more agile, collaborative and focused as we enter a period of sustained growth.

“Our strategy and plans remain unchanged, with sales growth and a focus on cost management anticipated to drive growing operating profit. I’m pleased that we are fully on track to meet these commitments as we build a sustainable level of growth and a pipeline that is benefitting more and more patients around the world.”

AstraZeneca is due to move into its new £500million-plus global HQ and R&D centre on Cambridge Biomedical Campus next year.

In December it announced that it was establishing a new Functional Genomics Centre in Cambridge with Cancer Research UK in another sign of the desire for collaboration that prompted it to set up its HQ in Cambridge in the first place.

Meanwhile, the company is to retire the MedImmune brand as its biologics work is now integrated within the new research and development units it announced last month.

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