AstraZeneca reports rise in annual profits

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Anglo-Swedish drugs giant AstraZeneca on Thursday announced a seven percent rise in net profits for 2010 to more than $8.0 billion, helped by higher sales of its cholesterol treatment Crestor.

AstraZeneca said in a statement that group earnings after tax grew to $8.053 billion from $7.521 billion in 2009.

"Our performance in 2010 underlines the strength and resilience of AstraZeneca's business," group chief executive David Brennan said in a statement.

"Despite government pricing pressures and anticipated patent expiries in the US and Western Europe, our revenues remained in line with the previous year driven by excellent performance of our key brands and continued growth in Emerging Markets.

"This performance, combined with disciplined management of the business enabled us to deliver increased earnings, increase the dividend and return residual cash to shareholders through share repurchases," he added.

AstraZeneca returned $2.1 billion to shareholders in 2010 after buying back shares and said it planned to hand over $4.0 billion this year.

The company added that total group revenue increased 1.4 percent to $33.269 billion in 2010.

"Declines in the US from generic competition and the absence of H1N1 (flu) vaccine revenue was offset by good growth in the rest of world. Revenue in the US was down 7 percent, whilst revenue in the rest of world increased by 7 percent."

It added that sales in emerging markets exceeded $5.0 billion for the first time.

AstraZeneca added that net profit increased 4.4 percent to $1.621 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with earnings of $1.553 billion a year earlier.

© 2011 AFP

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