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AstraZeneca reports loss; confirms purchase of Actavis unit

British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca reported a loss for the fourth quarter of 2014, but stressed that it was on track to return to growth by 2017.

The company, which saw off a £69 billion ($105 billion) takeover attempt from Pfizer of the U.S., reported a quarterly net loss of $321 million, a 38 percent drop from last year's $1.5 billion net profit, while revenue for the last three months of the year fell 2 percent on the same period a year ago to $6.68 billion.

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AstraZeneca also confirmed it would would buy Actavis's branded respiratory business in the U.S. and Canada for an initial $600 million plus an additional $100 million. The deal is expected to complete by the end of March.

"With the addition of (respiratory drugs) Tudorza and Daliresp, we will benefit from an immediate boost to revenue in our biggest market, further strengthening our growing respiratory franchise," said Paul Hudson, president of AstraZeneca U.S., in a news release.

The company also declared a second interim dividend of $1.90 per share, bringing the dividend for the full year to $2.80.

The company received a record six product approvals in 2014. These included Duaklir Genuair, a drug used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which was approved by the European Commission in November.

The big story for 2014 however was Pfizer's £69 billion ($105 billion) attempted takeover of AstraZeneca. The bid, which failed, would have allowed Pfizer to benefit from lower tax rates and gain a new pipeline of drugs, but was fiercely resisted by AstraZeneca and some U.K. politicians.

New R&D hub

On Wednesday, AstraZeneca announced that it had received permission to build a new global R&D center and corporate headquarters in Cambridge, U.K. The purpose-built facility will be located on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and will house around 2,000 employees. It comes as part of AstraZeneca's plans to improve links to European academic centers.

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Commenting on the results, Citi analyst Andrew Baum said that AstraZeneca remained his preferred "buy"-rated global pharmaceutical company, with a price target of £54 ($82).

"We think the market continues to estimate the oncology, immune oncology, autoimmune pipelines and Brilinta PEGASUS data," he said in a research note.

"Although the quality of near-term earnings will likely continue to underwhelm, the dividend remains well covered."

Shares in AstraZeneca opened down 2.74 percent Thursday morning at £45.56.