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AstraZeneca to target ‘modest profitability’ from vaccine

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AstraZeneca set out a plan to commercialise Covid-19 vaccines after the jab delivered its profit for the group.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker targeted “modest profitability” from the vaccine as new orders are received.

AstraZeneca was committed to selling the vaccine “at cost” for the duration of the pandemic, as part of its agreement with co-developer the University of Oxford. It will remain non-profit for developing countries, the company said.

Its move comes after AstraZeneca this week unveiled plans to set up a separate division for vaccine and immune therapies.

For the third quarter AstraZeneca’s total sales jumped by 28 per cent on constant exchange rates to $9.9bn, approximately matching consensus forecasts, with year-on-year growth reflecting its purchase of US rare disease medicines maker Alexion Pharmaceuticals. Excluding the vaccine sales rose 17 per cent.

But adjusted earnings fell short of the average analyst estimate at $1.08 a share, versus a $1.24 consensus, in part on one-off charges related to the integration of Alexion. The company left full-year earnings guidance unchanged.

Briefly

Oil services group John Wood said it has begun a strategic review of its environmental consultancy unit known as the built environment division, in an attempt to unlock value “not currently being recognised in its market capitalisation.” News of the review came with a trading update in which Wood guided for improved revenue and earnings in the second half relative to the first.

Avon Protection has launched a strategic review of its body armour business after a delivery to the US Defence Logistics Agency failed quality testing. Avon also warned of separate delays in obtaining final product approvals for DLA orders, saying the financial contribution from its armour business next year and beyond “will be significantly reduced”. The company delayed 2021 results previously due on November 23.

Housebuilder Redrow said recent trading has remained strong.

TheWorks, the discount crafts and book retailer, said trading in the half year to October has been stronger than expected with like-for-like sales up 14.5 per cent from the 2019 level. Full-year results should match previous guidance in spite of rising freight costs, it said.

Construction group Galliford Try said it was on track to meet full-year targets with margins in line with the board’s expectations.

Landsec has sold 6-9 Harbour Exchange in London’s Docklands, currently let to datacentre operator Equinix, to a property fund run by Blackstone for £196.5m.

Beyond the Square Mile

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to block the transit of gas and goods to Europe if the EU imposes further sanctions on his regime over the migrant crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border. Lukashenko was responding to an announcement by Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, that the bloc would widen sanctions, accusing Minsk of a “cynical geopolitical powerplay” in funnelling migrants to the EU’s borders in an attempt to destabilise it.

Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi spent 24 hours in London this week — his first international trip during the pandemic — as the ride-hailing giant faces a shortage of 20,000 drivers ahead of the peak Christmas season.

Toshiba has announced today a plan to split itself into three independent companies. One of the companies, which will predominantly hold Toshiba’s infrastructure, nuclear and heavy engineering operations. Another company would operate as an asset management division and hold Toshiba’s 40 per cent stake in Kioxia. But some investors say they may reject, according to people familiar with the matter.

Helen Thomas takes on the recurring notion that regulators should consider the international competitiveness of the UK financial services industry. “This dud was put to bed after the financial crisis,” she writes. But “the industry has spent a decade lobbying to bring back the competitiveness objective precisely because it can be used as a stick for beating regulators.”

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