Feb. 6 - There've been mixed fortunes for three of Europe's biggest drugmakers. David Pollard looks at the issues they are facing and the impact from generic brands and emerging markets.
AstraZeneca is still being hit by the loss of patents for some of its biggest sellers. Many competitors have already put the so-called ''patents cliff' behind them. But generic competition to Astra's heartburn and ulcer drug Nexium has taken a bite out of US profits. And it faces ''challenging headwinds'', according to chief exec, Pacal Soriot - with sales likely to drop this year as the British firm loses other profitable medicines. On the plus side: a restructuring programme had been expanded to provide further savings. And it's throwing resources into diabetes treatments and a new heart drug, Brilinta. Sanofi - France's second-largest listed company - says the patent cliff IS behind it. Sales are down on the year, but fourth-quarter net income is still up nearly 17 per cent - just ahead of forecasts. That's largely thanks to double digit growth in its diabetes drug, Lantus. Sanofi boss Chris Viehbacher also speaks of strong emerging markets demand. And many investors see Sanofi and other blue chips as well placed to weather the current storm. Richard Hunter of Hargreaves Lansdown. SOUNDBITE (English) RICHARD HUNTER, HEAD OF EQUITIES, HARGREAVES LANSDOWN, SAYING: ''The longer-term story tends to be one which is intact. But those slightly weaker emerging economies are the ones that are feeling the pain at the moment.'' GlaxoSmithKline boss Andew Witty also remains a fan of emerging markets despite the upheaval and a damaging bribery scandal in China. GSK has had its share of patent expires. But is predicting sales growth to around two per cent this year as it rolls out new products, with earnings per share seen up four to eight per cent. Investors are, though, still worried over GSK's reliance on its lung drug, Advair. It brings in a fifth of sales - but faces competition from copycats in Europe and possibly the U.S. in a couple of years' time.