AstraZeneca Confirms P/E of 8

LONDON -- The shares of AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN.L  ) (NYSE: AZN  ) advanced 41 pence to 2,926 pence in early London trade this morning after the pharmaceutical group published its third-quarter results and reconfirmed its earnings guidance for 2012.

The FTSE 100 member said core full-year earnings should still come in between $6 and $6.30 per share. The ratification came alongside nine-month figures that showed core nine-month profits having slid 14% to $4.85 per share.

Today's statement from AstraZeneca revealed quarterly sales collapsing 19% to $6.7 billion and underlying profit plunging 17% to $2.6 billion. The group's performance was thumped by the loss of the patent that protected Seroquel IR, a treatment for schizophrenia. Sales of the treatment crashed from $1 billion to just $169 million during July, August, and September.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's chief executive, said today:

As expected, the Company's financial performance in 2012 largely reflects the ongoing impact from the loss of exclusivity for several brands in key markets, as well as the challenges that confront the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. Since joining AstraZeneca, I've been deeply impressed by the commitment, talent and passion of our people and by their determination to deliver against our targets. As I take up my new role as Chief Executive, my priority is to restore the Company to growth and scientific leadership.

Back in February, Soriot's predecessor, David Brennan, predicted AstraZeneca's annual sales would bob between $28 billion and $34 billion during 2012, 2013, and 2014 as the company contended with patent expiries and lower government spending. Sales during 2011 were $34 billion.

Looking further out, in 2015 and 2016, two of AstraZeneca's best-selling treatments -- Nexium and Crestor -- will lose their patent protection in the U.S. The two treatments currently represent about 30% of AstraZeneca's top line. The shaky outlook for revenue probably explains why the shares trade at about eight times AstraZeneca's core earnings guidance for 2012. The company also offers a predicted dividend income of 6%.

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