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AstraZeneca braces for coronavirus hit, but no impact so far

(Reuters) - AstraZeneca forecast a likely slowdown in revenue growth this year, assuming a hit from China's coronavirus epidemic lasting up to a few months, although it added there had been limited disruption to its operations so far. Shares in the company, one of the world's major drugmakers, tumbled as much as 6% in early Friday trade after fourth-quarter results also missed analysts' expectations. However, they recovered after CEO Pascal Soriot played down the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the business so far. The company, moving into a third year of growth, predicted revenues would rise by a high single-digit to a low double-digit percentage at constant exchange rates this year, compared with 13% in 2019. "New drugs which were growth drivers all through 2019 posted below-expectations fourth-quarter sales," Berrigaud said. AstraZeneca forecast core earnings per share would rise by a mid- to high-teens percentage in 2020, compared with just 1% in 2019 and analysts' current consensus forecast of about 20%. Soriot also said the company was on track to reach an operating profit margin target of more than 30% in 2021.

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