AZ’s Q3 results disappoint – but COVID-19 vaccine trial is still on track

AstraZeneca has posted an uninspiring set of quarterly results as it gears up for results from its closely watched coronavirus vaccine trial.

AZ said in its third quarter results statement that it is on track to meet its guidance for the year, with total revenue expected to grow by 8%-12% and core earnings per share increasing by 15%-19%.

In the three months to the end of September AZ’s revenue increased by 3% to $6.6 billion, with products sales up 6%.

Earnings per share fell to $0.94, missing analysts’ estimates of $1, as some patients held off treatments for ailments unrelated to COVID-19.

AZ has pursued a strategy of selling off its older or unwanted drugs and has been benefiting from “collaboration revenue” from these deals as development partners reach certain milestones.

This revenue fell by 79% to $58 million compared with the same quarter last year, although the company said that this was down to a strong performance in last year’s Q3.

The company suggested that collaboration revenue may be higher in the next quarter as this income tends to come in chunks as various research projects reach fruition or sales targets are met.

At the same time the company also grabbed two new European approvals – for Lynparza in castration-resistant prostate cancer and for Forxiga for a form chronic heart failure.

The company’s coronavirus vaccine is perhaps the company’s most eagerly-watched pipeline asset, although AZ is unlikely to make much money from it – at least until the worst of the pandemic is over.

As reported by pharmaphorum earlier this week, AZ expects results from its late-stage trial by the end of the year despite a safety scare in September, setting up approval by regulators early in 2021.

AZ has pledged to sell the vaccine at cost price until a cut-off point expected midway through next year.

But as the UK heads for another economically damaging month-long lockdown the company confirmed that it could have crucial phase 3 data from the vaccine by the end of the year.

If approved the vaccine will do little for the company’s figures but will create huge goodwill as governments across the world seek an end to the spiral of death caused by the coronavirus.

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