AstraZeneca Posts $3 Million Loss

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A sign is seen at an AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, central England in May 2014. The company is relying on a string of new medicines to return the company to growth. Photo: Reuters

AstraZeneca AZN 2.04 % PLC posted a loss in the second quarter as it furiously invested in its next-generation drugs while battling falling sales of its aging blockbuster Crestor, and took a restructuring charge relating to a cost-reduction program.

Cambridge, England-based AstraZeneca posted a net loss of $3 million in the three months to June 30, compared with a net profit of $697 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenue slipped 11% to $5.6 billion. Analysts had forecast net profit of $403 million and revenue of $5.6 billion.

The net loss reflects a $308 million restructuring charge relating to a recently launched program to slim down the company’s sales force by 2018. The program is expected to cost $1.5 billion and yield $1.1 billion in net savings from 2018 onward. AstraZeneca’s newer drugs target more specialized disease areas that require fewer sales representatives.

Core operating profit, a measure that strips out one-time gains and losses, fell 22% to $1.4 billion, beating market expectations of $1.3 billion.

The strength of the dollar dented Astra’s results. Stripping out currency effects, revenue fell 10% and core operating profit declined 21%.

Astra’s downbeat results reflected a steep decline in sales of the company’s cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor after a cheap copycat version launched in early May.

Sales of the drug, Astra’s biggest seller, declined 29% in the quarter to $926 million, dragging overall product sales down 5% at constant exchange rates to $5.5 billion. Falling sales of another old blockbuster, Nexium for heartburn, also weighed on total sales.

The launch of generic Crestor marks the end of a succession of patent expirations for Astra’s old blockbusters that have dented revenue and earnings for several years.

AstraZeneca is relying on a string of new medicines to return the company to growth and fulfill Chief Executive Pascal Soriot’s pledge to increase sales to $45 billion by 2023, compared with $26 billion in 2015. That goal was a key plank in his defense against an unwelcome and ultimately unsuccessful takeover bid by Pfizer Inc. PFE 0.05 % in 2014.

Some of those are already generating sales growth. AstraZeneca said revenue from its so-called growth platforms increased 8% to $3.7 billion in the quarter. That includes revenue from recently-launched respiratory, diabetes and cancer drugs, its new heart medicine Brilinta and sales in the emerging markets and Japan.

AstraZeneca also generated $134 million in the quarter by unloading de-prioritized research programs to other companies in exchange for upfront payments and royalties.

The company backed earlier guidance to say it expects a low to mid-single digit decline for both revenue and core earnings per share.

Denise Roland at Denise.Roland@wsj.com





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