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The pharmaceutical market looks unphased by the current economic storm, with medicine giants GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca both revealing strong Q3 results.
GlaxoSmithKline reported a 16% rise in group sales for the quarter to just under £9.4 bn, providing a great tonic for investors. Share prices were up to a six year high after the results were released, now standing at 1,768.60p at the time of writing.
Its breakthrough shingles vaccine led the sales stampede, with sales rocketing 90 per cent to £535 m as it was rolled out across the US. Shingrix, which protects the over 50’s from developing the painful virus, has been hailed as revolutionary because of its 90 per cent effectiveness rate. On the back of the solid results, the drug company has raised its full year guidance, which was previously forecast as a 3-5% drop in earnings per share to expecting EPS to match last year’s figure. So, are these results a shot in the arm for investors? GlaxoSmithKline looks set to see continued growth with Shingrix and it has three new oncology drugs due to launch by the end of 2019, which Chief Executive, Emma Walmsley, remarked ‘looked particularly promising.’ The pharmaceutical giant also appears to have weathered the Zantac storm – it had to recall the heartburn drug last month over fears it may contain a possible carcinogen – but this doesn’t seem to have had a detrimental effect on share prices.
Despite the results, GlaxoSmithKline’s shares still look reasonably priced at 15 times earnings for the current financial year, and the consensus among analysts is that the stock has the potential to remain healthy for some time to come.
FTSE 100 peer, AstraZeneca also look immune to the current economic headwinds posting solid Q3 results too. The pharmaceutical firm revealed a product sales increase of 18%, leading it to raise its sales guidance for the second time this year and sending share prices up to 7,501p at the time of writing.
Sales of AstraZeneca’s new drugs have soared, up 64% in the quarter, with demand for oncology drugs particularly strong and sales in this segment climbing 45%. AstraZeneca has had its ups and downs over the past decade – the loss of some key patents and a previously ailing development pipeline have probably given investors sleepless nights in the past. But these figures seem to show the pharma giant is returning to health, and for investors who held their nerve through the bad times, the stock has delivered a 166% price rise over the last ten years.
But, does the share price have the potential to climb much higher or has the optimum entry point for the stock been and gone? Opinions are divided on this one – with a relatively high price to earnings ratio of around 26, some have the stock pegged as pricey. Concerns have also been raised that AstraZeneca’s operating profit has been artificially bolstered by the sale of non-core assets, such as the $243m disposal of gastro medicine Losec earlier this year. However, AstraZeneca has a strong development pipeline and it has carved a niche for itself with early stage oncology drugs, as well as making headway in China. Many analysts predict a bright future for the firm but think its biggest potential stumbling block could be high market expectations.
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