AstraZeneca profits leap

Anglo-Swedish drugs giant AstraZeneca reported on Thursday a 33.5-percent leap in net profits during the first half of 2006.

Net profits soared to 3.026 billion dollars in the six months to June 30, compared with 2.267 billion in the same period of 2005, AstraZeneca said in its interim results statement.

Group sales increased 7.8 percent to 12.805 billion dollars, or by 11 percent at constant rates of exchange. Earnings per share surged 41 percent to 1.02 dollars.

“The strong-second quarter earnings performance reflects our continued delivery of good sales growth and margin expansion,” chief executive David Brennan said in comments accompanying the release.

The group was boosted by sales of ulcer drug Nexium, anti-depressant Seroquel and cholesterol drug Crestor.

First-half sales of Nexium rose 11 percent, Seroquel increased by 29 percent and Crestor surged by 48 percent.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca had said last Saturday that it has won approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for asthma dug Symbicort, but did not plan to launch it into the American market until mid-2007.

“The prospects for our current portfolio have been strengthened by the Symbicort approval in the US and the regulatory submission for Seroquel in the US,” Brennan added in Thursday’s earnings release.

The earlier than expected approval for Symbicort is seen as a potential blow to rival GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the competing drug Advair.