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    0 AstraZeneca might need more than buzzwords to bridge the gap
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    EP VantageCompany AstraZeneca, Actavis, Bristol-Myers Squibb Tags Comment, Company Strategy, General, Investments in Infrastructure, Annual Results, Launches, Systemic Anti-Infectives, Oncology, Central Nervous System, Cardiovascular, Free Content, Financial GuidanceDate February 06, 2015
    It is widely appreciated that life is going to get tougher for AstraZeneca over the next couple of years as huge patent expiries bite chunks out of its top line. As the company would have it, however, profits will remain far more resilient.With substantial cost cuts being ruled out, how this will be achieved remains something of a mystery; executives’ keenness to emphasise an acceleration of “externalisation” suggests deals of some sort are on the way. These will have to be fairly substantial to shield earnings from the loss of blockbusters like Nexium and Crestor, so it seems likely that AstraZeneca is also looking at more traditional internalisations, otherwise known as acquisitions, at the same time.Chief executive Pascal Soriot and his team did not rule these out yesterday, while unveiling the company’s annual results.“If we were able to find an acquisition that would help us bridge to 2017 and build further strength in our core areas, we would do it,” he told analysts, adding the usual caveats of applying financial and strategic discipline.However, he and his team pushed the idea of “externalisation” much more heavily. The process was described at one stage as acting like a biotech and finding partners for non-core projects, or the search for ways to reduce R&D spend and increase income from collaborations.A deal struck with Lilly last year over the Alzheimer’s project AZD3293 was held up as an example. This involved a $50m up-front payment to AstraZeneca with the potential for $450m in further milestones, and a sharing of development costs. Areas like CNS and anti-infectives were cited as ripe for externalisation, and the company has a number of projects that have been tested in the clinic that could attract a more focused operator.It would require an awful lot of single-product licensing deals to pull the levers on a profit and loss account the size of AstraZeneca’s. So when finance chief Marc Dunoyer talks about going much further than before, more expansive deals must be in the works.Transactions on a scale of the Bristol-Myers Squibb diabetes franchise are worth bearing in mind – perhaps with AstraZeneca on the divesting end. An existing arrangement with Actavis over a novel antibiotic might be an area to watch; ceftazidime-avibactam is awaiting FDA approval.Meanwhile, deals like the Novartis-GlaxoSmithKline asset swap show that big pharma is certainly awake to the idea of shifting large chunks of their portfolios around.Cutting costs?Cost cuts will play a role for AstraZeneca in the coming years, although with a massive investment going into its immuno-oncology pipeline the R&D budget is unlikely to diminish much, if at all. And Mr Dunoyer said any reductions in SG&A would be focused on the G and A, as important launches continue to be supported.The only guidance given on costs for this year was confirmation that SG&A had peaked last year, specifically in the last quarter, as the company invested heavily in “growth platforms” like Brilinta and diabetes. Indeed some analysts suspect that the big hike in spending in the fourth quarter, leading to a fairly substantial quarterly miss of expectations, was done in part to help shield this year’s numbers.For 2015 AstraZeneca guided to a percentage revenue decrease in the mid-single digits; a 3% decline to $25.4bn is currently expected, consensus data from EvaluatePharma show, so the company is pointing to a substantially steeper drop-off.At the same time, however, it predicts that core EPS will increase by a low single-digits percentage; consensus shows that a slight dip in earnings is expected.This clearly does not add up – so deal making must be on the way from AstraZeneca. It will be interesting to see how much can be achieved through “externalisation”, or whether it will take a good old-fashioned bolt-on to really bridge Mr Soriot’s gap.To contact the writer of this story email Amy Brown in London at [email protected] or  follow @AmyEPVantage on TwitterThis content is written, edited and published by EP Vantage and is distributed by Evaluate Ltd. All queries regarding the content should be directed to: [email protected]EP Vantage is a unique, forward-looking, news analysis service tailored to the needs of pharma and finance professionals. EP Vantage focuses on the events that will define the future of companies, products and therapy areas, with detailed financial analysis of events in real-time, including regulatory decisions, product approvals, licensing deals, patent decisions, M&A.Drawing on Evaluate, an industry-leading database of actual and forecast product sales and financials, EP Vantage gives readers the insight to make value-enhancing decisions.[/table][/table]
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    Well we we have a pretty good idea of one direction they have been looking
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