New Delhi, November 2014 –
AstraZeneca touted an “industry-leading” line-up of hot new cancer drugs as it looked to show investors it has a strong independent future just days before takeover rules would allow Pfizer to launch a new bid.

The company also brought forward the filing date for a new lung cancer drug, and said it could win between eight and 10 new approvals in 2015-2016 for drugs dealing with a wide range of diseases.

Neil Woodford , a top-20 shareholder who left Invesco earlier to set up Woodford Investment Management, said his belief in the drugmaker’s independent prospects was “even stronger” after the update. AstraZeneca, which saw off a $118 billion approach from Pfizer in May, is his biggest holding.

The company’s work on immune-boosting cancer treatments is advancing especially fast, chief executive Pascal Soriot said, meaning it can now formally add it as a sixth growth business ahead of the new drugs reaching the market.

AstraZeneca’s five existing growth platforms – of heart drug Brilinta, diabetes, respiratory medicine, emerging markets and Japan – make up more than half of its revenue. It believes oncology could grow to a quarter of sales by 2023.

AstraZeneca still faces major challenges, with a raft of patent expiries over the next few years, and Mr Soriot said he would continue to seek partnerships and bolt-on acquisitions to build the business.

Many analysts remain sceptical about the company’s ability to deliver on its previously announced long-term targets – a return to revenue growth by 2017 and annual sales up by three quarters to exceed $45 billion by 2023 – but consensus forecasts have increased in the past six months.

AstraZeneca presented details of its new drugs to investors at a meeting with analysts. The event comes eight days before British takeover rules allow Pfizer to renew its pursuit, an option some investors see as unlikely after the US company signed a cancer drug deal with Germany’s Merck on Monday that reduced its need for AstraZeneca’s products. Mr Woodford said he thought there remained a 50/50 chance of Pfizer approaching AstraZeneca again, since the US firm still needed to replenish its medicine chest despite the Merck deal. – Reuters

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