New CEO has Work Cut Out as AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) Sales Fall  
10/25/2012 7:04:34 AM

AstraZeneca's sales slumped by a bigger-than-expected 19 percent in the third quarter, underscoring the challenges confronting the drugmaker's new chief executive, Pascal Soriot. Faced with patent expiries on once best-selling medicines and a thin pipeline of new drugs, the former Roche executive, who joined on October 1, needs to re-focus operations and step up the hunt for acquisitions, analysts believe. In his first day in office, Soriot suspended the group's share buyback program to increase financial flexibility as the group undergoes a strategy review, which is expected to be presented to investors in the first quarter of 2013. Soriot signaled on Thursday he did not see any dramatic shift away from the current focus on pharmaceutical innovation, rather than diversification, saying his priority was to "restore the company to growth and scientific leadership". That still leaves scope for increased deal-making, however, and bankers have speculated on potential acquisitions ranging from small and mid-sized biotech firms to specialty pharma companies like Forest Laboratories and Shire.