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Pfizer beats forecasts on demand for cancer drugs

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Mario Tama | Getty Images

Pfizer earnings topped analysts' expectations on Tuesday, helped by demand for its cancer drugs and medicines in emerging markets.

The company not, however, signal any acquisition plans in the wake of its recent failed efforts to buy rival British drugmaker AstraZeneca.

Following the report, Pfizer's shares rose in premarket trade. (Get the latest quote here.)

The company's third-quarter earnings slipped to 57 cents per share from 58 cents a share in the year-earlier period.

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Sales fell 2 percent to $12.36 billion, hurt by generic competition and expiration of a longstanding deal with Amgen Inc to co-market its Enbrel arthritis drug. But they topped Wall Street expectations of $12.24 billion.

Wall Street analysts had expected the company to post quarterly earnings of 55 cents a share on revenue of $12.24 billion.

Pfizer tightened its full-year earnings forecast to between $2.23 and $2.27 per share from its prior outlook of $2.20 to $2.30.

The company officially gave up its six-month pursuit of AstraZeneca after its final $118 billion bid was rejected on May 26. It had hoped to base the combined company in Britain, which has lower taxes than the United States, a maneuver called tax inversion.

Under UK takeover rules, Pfizer can make another run at AstraZeneca late next month, but the company did not mention its intentions in Tuesday's earnings report.

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U.S. drugmaker AbbVie two weeks ago gave up its $55 billion quest to buy Dublin drugmaker Shire, another tax-inversion deal, because of new U.S. Treasury tax rules that made the deal less attractive.

"Now that (AbbVie) has canceled its deal, it's less likely that Pfizer will move ahead" with its own attempt at AstraZeneca, said Edward Jones analyst Ashtyn Evans.

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But given Pfizer's predicted lack of growth over the next few years because of patent expirations, Evans said Pfizer "will still have to do something, like breaking up the company or making a big acquisition."

In the next four years, generic rivals will challenge blockbuster Pfizer products such as painkiller Celebrex, nerve pain treatment Lyrica and anti-impotence drug Viagra. The three drugs, with combined annual sales of almost $10 billion, generate about 20 percent of current company sales.

Lyrica sales jumped 16 percent to $1.32 billion in the quarter, while Viagra sales fell 7 percent to $427 million due to generic competition in Europe. Sales of Celebrex, which goes generic in the United States in December, rose 2 percent to $764 million.

Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read on Tuesday said the company would rely on "operational and financial efficiencies and remain opportunistic regarding business development." The company stressed that its board last week had authorized a new $11 billion share repurchase program over time.

Pfizer is the largest American pharmaceutical company, with a market cap of about $183 billion.

Last week, the drugmaker's board announced a continuation of its current share buyback program with a new $11 billion repurchase plan, which diminished hopes for a deal with AstraZeneca.

Reuters and CNBC's Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.