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AstraZeneca Fourth-Quarter Profit Up

AstraZeneca, Europe’s fourth-largest drug maker by prescription drug sales, posted a 21% rise in fourth-quarter earnings per share, compared to the last-year quarter.

AstraZeneca earned 93 cents a share in the last three months of 2006, compared with 77 cents a share in the year-ago quarter. But that was a penny below the Thomson Financial consensus estimate of 94 cents a share.

Sales in the company rose 11% for the fourth-quarter with $7.2 billion compared to $6.3 billion for the same period last year. The full-year sales for 2006 came in at $26.5 billion. That was a little better than the full-year consensus of $26 billion.

Pretax profit for the company was up 29% for the fourth-quarter at $2.1 million compared to $1.6 million for the same quarter, 2005.

The gain in profit is mainly due to restructuring activities, which included cutting around 3,000 positions, and the increasing demand for the company’s key drugs which include: Nexium, a heartburn drug; Seroquel, an antipsychotic; Symbicort, a treatment for breast cancer and Crestor, a cholesterol drug.

AstraZeneca has been under increasing pressure from generic drug competition which looks set to continue this year. Focus will now turn to the company’s strategy.

Shares in the company are trading up.

For 2007 AstraZeneca expects earnings in a range of $3.80 to $4.05 per share.

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