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The group reported results for the fourth quarter of 2016 recently that were better than some analysts had predicted  

It is proving to be a long wait for investors in AstraZeneca, the bio-pharma group originally set up by 400 Swedish doctors and pharmacists, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange. Broker Cantor Fitzgerald has reaffirmed its buy investment rating on AstraZeneca and set its price target at 4700p.

The group reported results for the fourth quarter of 2016 recently that were better than some analysts had predicted.  Although product sales were 15 per cent down in the fourth quarter at €5.26bn, earnings were up.

AstraZeneca attributed the fall in product sales primarily to the entry of Crestor generic medicines in the US. “Crestor represents the last anticipated blockbuster patent expiry, ahead of significant late-stage pipeline news flow,” the Cambridge headquartered company said.

It is coming up to three years since chief executive Pascal Soriot turned down a £55 per share offer from US rival Pfizer and the share price hasn’t come near £55 since then.

The shares closed 2 per cent up the day after the results (Friday, Feb 3) at £43.45 or 21 per cent below Pfizer’s offer.

During 2016 the group made “good progress on cost control, reflecting the evolving shape of the business.”

Even though the group wasn’t for sale when Pfizer came calling there were still deals to be done. Last August AstraZeneca agreed with Pfizer to sell the commercialisation and development rights to its small-molecule antibiotics business and late-stage pipeline in most markets outside the US. The transaction closed in the fourth quarter. AstraZeneca will not maintain a significant ongoing interest in the late-stage, small-molecule antibiotics business as a result.

In Europe strong growth in sales of Forxiga (up by 52 per cent to $187m) and Brilique (up by 15 per cent to $258m) was more than offset by a 12 per cent decline in Symbicort sales to $909m. However, Symbicort maintained its position as the number one ICS/LABA medicine by volume, despite competition from branded and analogue medicines. Lynparza and Tagrisso sales increased to $81m and $76m respectively.

CEO Pascal Soriot said that: “2017 has the potential to be a turning point for our company as we near the end of our patent-expiry period and bring new medicines to patients across the globe. It is an exciting time as we rapidly approach the inflection point for our anticipated return to long-term growth, built on the solid foundations of a science-led pipeline.”