AstraZeneca boosted by strong drugs sales during lockdown

Drugs giant AstraZeneca has said that strong sales across its range of treatments during lockdown helped it surpass second quarter sales and profit targets.

The firm told investors on Thursday that sales jumped by 14% to 12.6 billion US dollars (£9.73 billion) in the first six months of 2020 after a strong end to the period, despite the impact of coronavirus.

Product sales, which exclude payments from tie-ups, rose 9% to 6.05 billion dollars in the three months ended June 30, surpassing analyst predictions.

Sales were boosted by strong trading in new medicines, as well as cancer and respiratory medication.

The pharmaceutical company also reiterated it was on track with late-stage trials for its coronavirus vaccine.

Pascal Soriot, the firm’s chief executive officer, said: “I want to thank my colleagues around the world for producing a strong performance in the first half of the year, delivering further revenue growth and another step forward in profitability and cash generation.

“I was particularly pleased with the robust growth in Emerging Markets and the success of our new medicines.

“Looking ahead, while we continue to anticipate variations in quarterly performance, the continuation of our strategy makes us confident about the future.”

Helal Miah, investment research analyst at The Share Centre, said: “Despite the sector as a whole reporting lockdowns preventing patients visiting doctors and subsequent prescriptions, AstraZeneca’s Q2 results were still exceptionally good.

“With new drugs representing 50% of sales, this is a demonstration of Pascal Soriot’s success in focusing on research and development (R&D) spending after he took over at a time when the business was seeing earnings being hammered by generic competition to off-patent drugs.

“We’re moving on from a period where the group’s results were dominated by falling sales due to generic competition, to a period of growth and rewards of past R&D investing.”

Shares in the company moved 3.2% higher to 8,897p in early trading.