AstraZeneca sales surge on back of cancer drugs growth

Sales surged in the first quarter at drugs giant AstraZeneca on the back of its push into cancer drugs and emerging markets.

Revenues grew for the third consecutive quarter, with a 14% increase in product sales to 5.5 billion US dollars (£4.2 billion) after removing currency fluctuations.

In February, the FTSE 100 company reported annual sales growth for the first time since 2009, turning the business round after it was hampered by patent losses.

The turnaround has been driven by its growth in cancer drug sales, which soared 59% to 1.9 billion US dollars (£1.5 billion) and accounted for 35% of total product sales.

It is heavily investing in cancer treatment development to continue sales growth, and last month announced plans to pay up to 6.9 billion US dollars (£5.3 billion) to Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo to develop and sell next-generation drugs.

Sales in Europe fell by 6%, while sales in the US jumped by 20%.

Profitability also improved as its operating margin rose 7 percentage points to 20%.

AstraZeneca said it is on track to hit its annual sales and earnings targets and has extensively prepared to deal with the impact of a disorderly exit from the EU.

Astrazeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said: “Our core operating profit almost doubled, demonstrating strong operating-margin improvement.

“Together with this encouraging financial start to the year, our highly-productive and sustainable pipeline continued to deliver.”

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Pascal Soriot will be feeling a degree of vindication in these numbers. Revenue growth is no longer a matter of faith for Astra investors, it can be seen in black and white.”

Shares rose 0.2% to 5,901p in early trading on Friday.

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