AstraZeneca posts profit jump on asset sale

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Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca on Thursday said net profits more than doubled in the third quarter after the sale of its dental division offset modest sales growth.

Earnings after taxation surged 124 percent to $3.48 billion (2.48 billion euros) in the three months to September from $1.55 billion in the same period of last year, the company said in a results statement.

That beat market expectations for net profit of $3.23 billion, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires. Revenues grew 3.9 percent to $8.21 billion.

AstraZeneca had in June announced the sale of its Astra Tech unit to US dental implant manufacturer Dentsply International for $1.8 billion.

The cash deal supports the London-listed drugmaker's strategy of focusing on medicine development and increasing returns for shareholders.

"We have delivered a third quarter revenue and core earnings performance in line with our expectations, against the backdrop of anticipated generic competition and government price interventions," AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan said in the earnings release.

"Our disciplined execution continues to generate strong cash returns, with dividends and net share repurchases well ahead of last year."

So far this year, AstraZeneca has completed shareholder repurchases of $3.88 billion.

"With the Astra Tech sale completed at the end of August, the group is well placed to achieve its revised target of around $5 billion for the full year, with repurchases funded by any remaining balance of the Astra Tech gain to be completed in 2012," the group added.

In late morning deals, AstraZeneca shares rose 0.77 percent to 3,065 pence on London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies. The FTSE was 2.06 percent higher at 5,667.36 points as sentiment was boosted by the eurozone debt deal.

© 2011 AFP

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