AstraZeneca Vaccine Turns Profitable, Drugmaker Banking on New Orders

(Reuters) -
(REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine made a small contribution to earnings in the third quarter and it expects the shot to move to “modest profitability” on new orders after the drugmaker on Friday posted $1.05 billion in vaccine sales for the period.

The Anglo-Swedish company, which has said will not make a profit from the cheap and easy-to-use shot during the pandemic, this week unveiled plans to set up a separate unit for vaccines and antibody treatments to focus on its coronavirus efforts.

Total revenue jumped 47% to $9.74 billion for the three months to September on a constant-currency basis, while core earnings came in at $1.08 per share, the company said, with the vaccine, Vaxzevria, contributing one cent to the profit.

The addition of rare-disease specialist Alexion from July 21, thanks to a $39 billion deal agreed almost a year ago, also boosted sales.

Analysts on average were expecting profit of $1.28 per share on sales of $9.4 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Some of the company’s core treatments for cancer, rare-diseases and heart conditions disappointed, with lower-than-expected growth in sales of lung cancer drug Tagrisso due to price cuts in China.

However, established asthma drug Symbicort recorded a strong performance in emerging markets, with sales overall up 13% at $676 million in the quarter. Revenues of the best-seller Tagrisso rose 8% to $1.25 billion.

AstraZeneca said the limited profit from the vaccine in the fourth quarter would make up for costs related to its antibody cocktail for preventing and treating COVID-19, as it stuck with its overall forecasts for the year.

Rival Pfizer this month forecast 2021 and 2022 sales from its COVID-19 vaccine of at least $65 billion overall, topping estimates. However, Moderna slashed its 2021 sales outlook for its shot by as much as $5 billion, on production hiccups.