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AstraZeneca CEO Resigns, Shares Drop

Departure follows falling sales and a lowered earnings forecast


In the wake of falling sales and diminished profit estimates for this year, AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) CEO David Brennan has resigned. He will leave the company on June 1, after six years as CEO.

Shares of the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker were down more than 6% in early Thursday trading. For the past year, AZN is trading 14.4% lower.

AstraZeneca recently reported an 11% drop in first-quarter sales. Earnings excluding charges also fell 19% during the quarter, missing analysts’ forecasts, Reuters noted.

The company reduced its 2012 EPS estimate from a range of $6 to $6.30 to between $5.85 and $6.15, compared to EPS of $7.28 in 2011, and it predicted a double-digit decline in annual revenue.

AstraZeneca faces increased competition and the end of a number of its drug patents, including those for Nexium and Crestor, which expire in the next four years, Reuters said. Investors had voiced rising concerns over Brennan’s leadership and a lack of successful new drugs.

During his tenure, Brennan shed employees and lowered expenses, but infuriated shareholders with the $15.6 billion purchase of MedImmune in 2007. The acquisition has done little to increase AstraZeneca’s development pipeline of new drugs. In an attempt to deal with that problem, the company recently announced the $1.26 billion purchase of Ardea Biosciences (NASDAQ:RDEA).

CFO Simon Lowth will assume Brennan’s duties until a new CEO is found. Additionally, former Volvo executive Leif Johansson will become non-executive chairman in June, three months ahead of schedule.

Reuters said sources inside AstraZeneca indicated that Johansson had been involved in the decision to oust Brennan.

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media,

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