By Ben Hirschler
LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (LSE:AZN) promoted Marc Dunoyer to be its new chief financial officer on Thursday, plugging a gap in the British drugmaker's top management team as it grapples with falling sales and profits.
Dunoyer, who joined from rival GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) in June and currently heads product strategy, will replace well-respected finance chief Simon Lowth, whose departure had already been announced.
Hit by generic competition to key drugs, sales and profits at AstraZeneca continued to slide in the third quarter, underscoring the challenge facing Chief Executive Pascal Soriot, who has been in the job for just over a year.
"As expected, our financial performance this year reflects the ongoing impact from the loss of exclusivity for several key brands," Soriot said in a statement.
Sales fell by 6 percent to $6.25 billion (3.9 billion pounds), weighed down by loss of patent protection on several drugs - including, in some markets, its top-selling cholesterol fighter Crestor - while earnings per share (EPS) tumbled 28 percent.
"Core" operating profit of $2.03 billion, which excludes certain items, generated EPS of $1.21. Analysts had, on average, forecast core EPS of $1.22 and sales of $6.44 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.
The group reiterated its expectation for a mid-to-high single digit percentage fall in revenue this year, with earnings expected to decline significantly more, due to rising research and marketing costs.
Near-term hopes are pinned on new heart drug Brilinta, although its progress to date has been slow, with sales in the quarter edging up to $75 million from $65 million in the three months to end-June.
Growth in drug sales in China, where an anti-corruption drive has disrupted the market, slowed to 13 percent. But AstraZeneca fared a lot better than GlaxoSmithKline, the company at the centre of the scandal, whose China sales crashed 61 percent in the third quarter.
Overall revenue in emerging markets was up 5 percent and AstraZeneca said it expected a high single-digit revenue increase in emerging markets for the full year.
(editing by Elizabeth Piper)