Health and Science

AstraZeneca sales rise 10% in 2020, drugmaker sees revenue growth ahead

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Key Points
  • The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant reported product sales totaling $25.8 billion for 2020.
  • Total revenue came in at $26.6 billion for the year, and $7.4 billion for the fourth quarter.
  • Last year's performance "marked a significant step forward for AstraZeneca. Despite the significant impact from the pandemic, we delivered double-digit revenue growth," said CEO Pascal Soriot.
A box containing vials of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is pictured at the Foch hospital in Suresnes, on February 6, 2021, on the start of a vaccination campaign for health workers with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.
Alain Jocard | AFP | Getty Images

AstraZeneca said Thursday its product sales grew by 10% in 2020, a year in which the drugmaker garnered attention for its work developing a coronavirus vaccine..

The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant reported product sales totaling $25.8 billion for the year. For the fourth quarter, sales rose 12% to just over $7 billion. The company said it was the first time in "many years" that quarterly product sales were so strong. Total revenue came in at $26.6 billion for the year, and at $7.4 billion for the fourth quarter.

CEO Pascal Soriot said last year's performance "marked a significant step forward for AstraZeneca. Despite the significant impact from the pandemic, we delivered double-digit revenue growth."

"The consistent achievements in the pipeline, the accelerating performance of our business and the progress of the COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated what we can achieve," he added in a statement.

The company also kept its its full-year dividend unchanged at $2.80 per share.

AstraZeneca's report comes as its Covid vaccine is being heavily relied upon by the U.K., European Union and other countries as they try to bring an end to the public health crisis.

The company has said it will provide access to its vaccine at no profit for the "duration of the pandemic," although the timing is uncertain. It has also committed to provide the vaccine on a nonprofit basis in perpetuity to low and middle-income countries. As such, its current earnings did not include vaccine sales.

AstraZeneca, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, said it expects revenue growth of a "low-teens percentage" in 2021. The company also forecast "core" earnings per share to range from $4.75 to $5. The guidance does not incorporate any revenue or profit impact from sales of the Covid vaccine, AstraZeneca said. The company intends to report these sales separately starting in the next quarter.

London- and U.S.-listed shares of the company were little changed Thursday.

Some controversy

AstraZeneca's vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, was hailed as a game changer alongside the candidates from other pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Although clinical trials showed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had a lower efficacy rate than its rivals, the fact that it's cheaper and easier to store and transport has proved to be a boon for countries like the U.K. where it rolled out in January. The rapid rollout of vaccines is seen as crucial to the reopening of economies severely damaged by lockdowns and job losses.

The company has faced some controversy over its vacciner.

Some drug regulators within Europe have said they will not recommend the vaccine for people older than 65 — the target age group as rollouts gather steam — due to a supposed lack of data to show its efficacy in that age group.

Also, South Africa suspended — and then abandoned — using the vaccine amid concerns that it had limited efficacy against a variant of the virus that emerged there.

Nonetheless, independent experts advising the World Health Organization about immunization recommended on Wednesday the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine, even in countries where there are variants.

During testing, late-stage clinical trial results that highlighted a higher efficacy rate after a dosing error raised eyebrows among experts, as well as questions over the results and the recommended dosing regimen (like most of the coronavirus vaccines currently being rolled out, it is a two-dose shot).

AstraZeneca also got into hot water with the EU when the company said it would not deliver as many vaccines as expected to the bloc in the spring, blaming teething issues at its production plants in Belgium and the Netherlands.