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AstraZeneca Firing 3,000

The drug company also offers soft guidance for 2007.
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AstraZeneca (AZN) - Get Astrazeneca PLC Sponsored ADR Report set plans to fire 3,000 workers and to buy back $4 billion worth of its own stock. The company posted a 21% rise in fourth-quarter earnings but guided below the consensus for 2007.

The London-based drug giant also said it would pay $150 million for closely held U.K. biotech Arrow Therapeutics, which focuses on antiviral drugs including an effort to develop an approach to the hepatitis C virus.

"Arrow Therapeutics is an excellent opportunity to acquire a world-class antiviral capability to add to our own antibacterial research capabilities and promising early-stage compounds," the company said. "AstraZeneca is determined to focus on areas of highest unmet needs and we have identified antibacterials and antivirals as a key opportunity."

For the fourth quarter, AstraZeneca's profit rose to 93 cents a share from 77 cents a year earlier, as sales rose 14% from a year ago to $7.15 billion.

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AstraZeneca said the firings would lead to $500 million in charges. The company said it expects to make $3.80 to $4.05 for 2007, excluding any contributions from sales of its Toprol-XL product in the U.S. The hypertension drug now faces generic competition.

Analysts were looking for $4.07.