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Covid vaccine pushes AstraZeneca to record revenues

AstraZeneca has reported a record quarter for revenues, including $ 1.8bn from its Covid-19 vaccine and sales from its $ 39bn acquisition of rare disease company Alexion.

Total revenue at the UK drugmaker soared 63 per cent year on year to $ 12bn in the fourth quarter after the effect of currency moves were stripped out – higher than the consensus forecast for $ 11bn. Two cancer drugs – Tagrisso and Lynparza – and Soliris for a rare disease each generated more than $ 1bn in the three-month period.

Core earnings per share rose 74 per cent to $ 1.67, above the average analysts’ estimate of 73 cents.

The company raised its dividend for the first time in a decade, with a total 2021 dividend of $ 2.87.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, said the company had “industry-leading research and development productivity”, with five new drugs becoming blockbusters – producing more than $ 1bn revenue a year – in 2021.

“We also delivered on our promise of broad and equitable access to our Covid-19 vaccine with 2.5bn doses released for supply around the world,” he added.

AstraZeneca made its first sales of its Covid-19 vaccine on a for-profit basis in the quarter but did not give detail of the revenue generated from the new contracts. The shot is significantly cheaper than the mRNA jab from BioNTech and Pfizer. Pfizer reported $ 12.5bn of sales of its Covid-19 vaccine in the fourth quarter.

AstraZeneca forecasts a high teens percentage increase in total revenue in 2022, with currency movements stripped out, and a mid-to-high twenties percentage rise in core earnings per share.

Soriot took the top job at AstraZeneca almost 10 years ago, focusing on innovation and investment in R&D. The company now has 13 blockbusters, five of which have multibillion-dollar sales. In 2021, AstraZeneca had 22 regulatory approvals and authorizations, and 14 positive late-stage trial results for nine medicines.

In 2021 it reported total revenue of $ 37bn, up 38 per cent year on year at constant exchange rates, of which $ 4bn was from the Covid-19 vaccine developed in partnership with Oxford university. The company experienced double-digit growth in all of its major regions, despite pressure on prices in China.

AstraZeneca closed its deal to buy Alexion in July 2021. The acquisition brought a pipeline of drugs for rare diseases. Rare disease treatments contributed 8 per cent of revenue in 2021.

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