ii view: AstraZeneca cancer drugs lead the way

by Keith Bowman from interactive investor |

Upgrade to full-year product sales forecasts underpins pharma company AstraZeneca's growth credentials.

First-half results 

  • Revenue up 9% to $11.3 billion
  • Operating profit up 9% to $1.59 billion
  • Earnings per share up 3% to 56 US cents 
  • Interim dividend of 90 US cents per share, unchanged

Chief executive Pascal Soriot said:

"The momentum generated last year continued into the first half, consolidating AstraZeneca's return to growth based on the strength of our new medicines. Five of these new medicines are anticipated to be blockbusters this year, supporting sales across both Oncology and BioPharmaceuticals."

ii round-up:

AstraZeneca (LSE:AZN) is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company.  It is focused on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, mainly for the treatment of diseases in oncology (cancer), CVRM (Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolism) and respiratory. 

Employing over 60,000 people in more than 100 countries, the company is listed on the London, Stockholm and New York stock exchanges. 

Astra currently has over 150 projects in its drug pipeline. 

The company reported solid progress in these half-year results. Product sales rose by 12% with oncology cancer sales up an impressive 51%. On a regional basis, emerging markets sales grew by 17% and China grew by 34%. 

Looking ahead, product sales for 2019 are now expected to increase by a low double-digit percentage – up from the prior forecast of a high single-digit increase.

The share price rose by over 5% in early UK stock market trading. 

ii view:

For investors, excitement created by its cancer products has underpinned a re-rating of the shares. They now trade on a forward price/earnings (PE) ratio in the early 20's compared to a 10-year average of less than 15 and a forward PE of below 15 at rival GlaxoSmithKline (LSE:GSK)

As such, the dividend yield is now more reflective of growth, although arguably still attractive at over 3% on a historic basis. These results appear to justify the lofty valuation and reflect the progress being made. 

Positives: 

  • Product sales forecasts for 2019 upgraded
  • Global strategic oncology tie-up with Merck & CoMerck & Co (NYSE:MRK) agreed in 2017
  • Partnering Japan's Daiichi Sankyo to development new blockbuster cancer drug

Negatives:

  • Other medicine sales including those where patents have expired fell by 19%
  • Operating expenses increased by 5%
  • Dividend cover at 1.3 times is below the three-year average of 1.5 times

The average rating of stock market analysts:

Buy

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Full performance can be found on the company or index summary page on the interactive investor website. Simply click on the company's or index name highlighted in the article.

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