AstraZeneca hails return to growth despite lower annual profits

Drugs giant AstraZeneca has revealed falling annual profits, but said a strong performance in the final quarter underscored a return to growth.

The group reported a 17% fall in core operating profits to 5.7 billion US dollars (£4.4 billion) for 2018.

Pre-tax profits fell 14% with exchange rates stripped out, to 2 billion US dollars (£1.6 billion).

But the firm said a “very strong” end to the year saw total fourth-quarter revenues rise 14% with currency effects stripped out to 6.4 billion US dollars (£5 billion), while core earnings lifted 23% to 2.2 billion US dollars (£1.7 billion).

Pascal Soriot
Pascal Soriot

Fourth-quarter pre-tax profits rose 69% at constant currency to 730 million US dollars (£567 million).

The group also gave a bullish outlook for the year ahead, forecasting product sales growing by a high single-digit percentage and core operating profits rising by a “mid-teens percentage”.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, said: “Closing the year with another strong quarter, our performance confirmed that AstraZeneca has returned to 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 benefiting more and more patients around the world.”