AstraZeneca Profits Slip

Stiff competition from generics is again the culprit.
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AstraZeneca

(AZN) - Get Report

posted a slightly lower first-quarter profit but topped analysts' consensus estimate and reiterated its full-year 2003 guidance.

The London-based pharmaceutical company earned $932 million, or 54 cents a share, compared with $958 million, or 55 cents a share, in the prior-year period. Analysts were expecting 42 cents a share. Pretax profit was $1.293 million, compared with $1.318 million a year earlier.

Total sales were $4.74 billion, compared with $4.35 billion in the year-ago period. The company said the weaker dollar increased reported sales growth rate by 5%. Sales in the U.S. reflected significant generic competition for Prilosec, Zestril, and Nolvadex, whose total sales were $669 million lower than the first quarter 2002, the company said. This was more than offset by a continued strong performance in the rest of the company's product portfolio, with sales up 55%.

Nexium sales were up 136% due to strong prescription demand and wholesaler stock building in the U.S., the company said. Meanwhile, Prilosec sales in the U.S. were $287 million in the quarter, down 60%.

Looking to 2003, the company expects earnings of $1.50 to $1.65 a share. Analysts expect $1.58 a share, on average; the company earned $1.84 a share in 2002.

Shares of the company were recently climbing 1.87% to $39.73 in midmorning trading.