AstraZeneca Says Coronavirus Outbreak to Hit Results

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AstraZeneca Plc signaled that a long-awaited profit rebound this year will be dented by the impact of the coronavirus spreading in China, one of the U.K. drugmaker’s key markets.

Depending on the epidemic’s extent, earnings are expected to increase by a mid- to high-teens percentage, AstraZeneca said Friday. Analysts had expected earnings to rise to $4.24 a share, an increase about 21% from 2019’s result.

Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot has made China a focus, accelerating research and investment in new drugs there and lending a hand to a traditional Chinese medicine. The coronavirus epidemic, which first came to light in late December, has begun roiling markets as countries cut off travel to China, hurting industries from luxury goods to cars.

The company’s fourth-quarter earnings missed analysts’ estimates by 9 cents a share, with sales of key cancer drugs such as Tagrisso and Lynparza coming in below projections.

Astra fell as much as 6.3% in early London trading, the most intraday since March 2019. The shares had changed little since the beginning of the year, while a Bloomberg index of drugmakers gained 6.8%.

AstraZeneca said its forecast assumes that the impact of the coronavirus will last several months.

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