AstraZeneca on track to deliver on Covid-19 shots as sales hit $365 million

AstraZeneca said it is on track to deliver 200 million doses a month from April. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - AstraZeneca said its Covid-19 vaccine sales were US$275 million (S$365 million) in the first quarter and it is on track to deliver 200 million doses a month from April, as better-than-expected results and a second-half growth forecast boosted its shares.

Chief executive Pascal Soriot again defended the vaccine roll-out on Friday (April 30), saying that the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker had not overpromised on its ability to supply shots, as he defended big cuts in deliveries that prompted a European Union lawsuit.

AstraZeneca, which has said it will not make a profit from the shot during the pandemic, was reporting financial details of distribution and sales of the vaccine it developed with Oxford University for the first time.

It said the revenue included delivery of about 68 million doses, adding that European sales were US$224 million, emerging markets US$43 million and US$8 million in the rest of the world.

Sales of US$275 million for 68 million doses equates to a price tag of around US$4 per shot.

AstraZeneca was one of the leaders in the global race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. Its cheap and easily transportable shot was hailed as a milestone in the fight against the crisis, but it has since faced a series of setbacks.

"Shipments (of Covid-19 vaccines) are increasing as manufacturing improves," Mr Soriot said during a briefing, adding that it was on track to deliver 200 million doses a month.

"We never overpromised, we communicated what we thought we would achieve at the time," he said.

AstraZeneca shares were up 3.5 per cent in Friday morning trade in London, putting them on track for their best day since October. The stock, which hit record highs in July 2020 due to optimism around the vaccine, ended last year 4 per cent lower.

The results come after a bruising start to the year as the drugmaker struggles with production of its vaccine and faces a legal battle after cutting deliveries to Europe, while regulators probe rare blood clots in people who got the shot.

"Despite the intense operational and political challenges created by AZN's Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, the core business continues to perform above market expectations in a most challenging quarter, demonstrating strength across therapeutic areas and geographies," Citigroup analysts said in a note.

Vaccine race

Pfizer, whose Covid-19 vaccine co-developed with German partner BioNTech is several times more costly than AstraZeneca's, has forecast US$15 billion for its share of sales, with analysts expecting as much as US$18 billion on average.

BioNTech expects close to €10 billion (S$16.1 billion) in revenues from committed vaccine deliveries this year but raised the prospect of more supply deals.

Moderna in February said it was expecting sales of US$18.4 billion from its own vaccine this year.

Before AstraZeneca's earnings, market researcher GlobalData said it expected annual sales of US$278 million this year and next for the drugmaker's coronavirus vaccine, branded Vaxzevria.

AstraZeneca said it is working as fast as possible to compile data to apply for US approval. Mr Soriot said there was nothing wrong with the data, but the dataset was very large.

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