<HEADLINE>UPDATE 1-ASTRAZENECA SMASHES FORECASTS IN Q2 AFTER SEEING OFF
Q2 revenue $6.45 billion vs consensus $6.29 billion
* Q2 core EPS $1.30 vs consensus $1.10
* Drugmaker raises full-year guidance
* Now assuming generic Nexium in U.S. from Oct. 1
(Adds detail on products, background)
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca smashed forecasts for second-quarter sales and earnings on Thursday, demonstrating resilience after seeing off a $118 billion takeover approach from rival drugmaker Pfizer two months ago.
On the back of the strong results, AstraZeneca raised its guidance for the full year, predicting sales would hold steady and not decline as previously expected.
Chief Executive Pascal Soriot has fought hard to prove AstraZeneca has a strong independent future and does not need the kind of mega-merger offered by Pfizer.
He has gained credit for his firm's pipeline of promising new cancer drugs, while the respiratory business has been boosted by strong demand for Symbicort, which has taken business from GlaxoSmithKline's rival drug Advair.
AstraZeneca moved to boost its lung drug franchise further on Wednesday by acquiring rights to Spanish group Almirall's lung treatments in a deal worth up to $2.1 billion.
Sales in the first quarter rose 4 percent to $6.45 billion, despite generic competition to some drugs, generating "core" earnings, which exclude certain items, up 8 percent at $1.30 a share.
Industry analysts, on average, had forecast sales in the quarter of $6.29 billion and earnings of $1.10 a share, according to Thomson Reuters.
A raft of patent expiries will pressure sales and profits until at least 2017 but Britain's second-biggest pharmaceuticals group is enjoying a partial reprieve for now, due to the delayed U.S. launch of a generic form of heartburn pill Nexium.
Revenue in 2014 is now expected to be in line with 2013 at constant exchange rates - an increase on previous guidance of a low-to-mid single digit percentage decline - and core earnings per share are set for a low double-digit decline, against previous guidance of a percentage decrease in the teens.
AstraZeneca now assumes, for planning purposes, that generic versions of prescription Nexium will reach the U.S. market on Oct. 1.
India's Ranbaxy Laboratories holds the rights to sell the first generic copy of the popular drug but its continuing problems with meeting regulatory standards in manufacturing have delayed a launch.
AstraZeneca's quarterly results were also boosted by a $200 million milestone payment from Pfizer, following the U.S. company's launch of an over-the-counter version of Nexium in May.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)