The boss of drug maker AstraZeneca said Britain is a better place to do business than it was a year ago – but he warned that more improvements are needed.
In what could be seen as a warning to the major parties ahead of a general election, French chief executive Pascal Soriot said that there was work to do to boost investment in innovation.
But he was more positive about the UK than he was last year when he called it a ‘very unattractive’ place to do business.
In April he blasted high taxes in Britain, saying it was a difficult country in which to establish pharmaceutical manufacturing bases as he touted China as the next big growth region.
But yesterday he said: ‘We are certainly looking at what future investments we could do in the UK and elsewhere.’
Upbeat: Astrazeneca’s French chief exec Pascal Soriot (pictured) is more positive about the UK than he was last year when he called it a ‘very unattractive’ place to do business
The FTSE 100 boss said it was now easier to carry out clinical trials and praised the Chancellor for introducing tax policies to ‘incentivise companies to invest’.
‘The environment in the UK for life sciences today is different from what it was almost a year ago,’ said Soriot, who was appointed in 2012. The ability to do clinical trials has improved a lot.
‘The Government and NHS have done a lot to facilitate clinical trials. The chancellor has introduced tax policies helping incentivise companies to invest.
‘Finally, the industry and the Government have found a compromise in terms of those rebates that were really affecting companies and reducing incentives to invest.
There is more to do to increase investment in innovation in the UK but clearly we are moving in the right direction and in a much better environment. There is more to come.’
It came as the Anglo-Swedish pharma giant more than doubled annual profits last year thanks to bumper sales of cancer treatments.
Profits hit £5.5billion in 2023, up from £1.9billion the year before, as sales rose 3 per cent to £36.3billion. Excluding Covid drugs, sales were up 13 per cent.
Cancer drug sales jumped 19 per cent to £14.6billion and account for 40 per cent of revenues compared with 35 per cent in 2022.
And the London-listed firm said revenue and earnings this year would be lifted by blockbuster oncology medicines.
Revenue and core earnings per share – a measure of profit – is expected to rise by a ‘low double-digit to low teens percentage’ in 2024.
But shares fell 6.4 per cent, or 667p, to 9823p as results for the final three months of the year were not as strong as expected.
It reported profits of £712million between October and December, 15 per cent higher than a year earlier but less than analysts had expected – the miss due to a step-up in research and development spending and price reductions for some medicines in emerging markets.
‘Pharma companies typically prosper from having a mixture of blockbuster products, treatments with limited or no competition, and a healthy pipeline of new drugs,’ said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
‘Astra is under constant pressure to keep driving growth. That means success in the lab as well as products on the market. Its pipeline looks busy, but success is never guaranteed.’