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GSK pledges to step up growth as it prepares for consumer spin-off

Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline’s chief executive who has been under pressure from activist investors, has promised a “step change in growth” in 2022, as the UK drugmaker beat earnings expectations in the fourth quarter.

The company is preparing to spin-off its consumer health unit in the middle of the year, after rejecting Unilever’s £ 50bn offer for the maker of over-the-counter medicines and vitamins late last year. The new slimmed down pharma and vaccines business expects milestone data on seven late-stage drug candidates.

GSK forecast sales will rise between 5 and 7 per cent and adjusted operating profits will grow between 12 and 14 per cent in 2022. The forecasts, at constant exchange rates, exclude sales from Covid-19 products but include royalties from Gilead for an HIV drug , after a recent $ 1.25bn settlement.

The company reported earnings of 25.6p per share in the fourth quarter, compared to the average analyst estimate of 23.8p. It will pay a dividend of 23p per share for the quarter.

Sales were in line with the consensus forecast, at £ 9.5bn. The company’s Covid-19 antibody treatment, developed with Vir Biotechnology, had sales of £ 958mn in the quarter. Governments signed large contracts during the most recent Covid-19 wave as unlike some rivals, the drug can tackle the Omicron variant.

However sales of vaccines fell 7 per cent as Covid-19 vaccination schedules continued to reduce demand for other shots, including Shingrix, the jab to prevent shingles.

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