AstraZeneca’s (AZN) first-quarter earnings came in at $1.91 per American Depositary Shares (ADS), surpassing both the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.71 and the year-ago quarter’s $1.48. However, post adjustment, the company’s operating earnings per ADS came in at $2.03, compared to $1.58 in the first quarter of 2009.

Revenues increased 7% at constant exchange rates (CER) to $8.6 billion compared to the same period last year. The primary reasons for the increase in revenues were robust performance of its key brands such as Crestor (sales up 27% to $1,300 million), Seroquel (up 13% to 1,307 million), Symbicort (up 29% to $701 million) and robust growth in emerging markets.

AstraZeneca recorded strong sales across all geographies during the quarter. Sales in US, Western Europe, Emerging Markets and Established Markets increased (at CER) by 2%, 7%, 19% and 12%, respectively.

Among the product categories, while Oncology and Infection & Other both recorded sales declines of 3% and 6%, respectively, all other segments increased their revenues. AstraZeneca earned about 27% of its revenues during the quarter from cardiovascular drug sales. This segment and Neuroscience recorded the highest growth of 20% and 11%, respectively. Revenues for the Respiratory and Inflammation segment and the Gastrointestinal segment increased 8% and 2%, respectively.

Revenues from the Oncology segment are likely to suffer following the loss of patent exclusivity of breast cancer drug, Arimidex, which recorded sales of $511 million during the quarter.

AstraZeneca’s core gross margin declined to 81% from 82.4% in the year-ago period driven by a 20% increase in cost of sales. However, operating margin improved to 45% from 43.6% in the year-ago period. With respect to the restructuring program announced earlier, the company incurred costs of $95 million during the quarter.

Based on a strong first quarter, AstraZeneca revised upward its guidance for 2010. The company expects core earnings per ADS in the range of $6.05 – $6.35, up from the previous guidance of $5.90 – $6.30. The guidance is inclusive of the impact of US healthcare reform. However, revenue guidance remains unchanged – a-mid single digit decline for the full year.

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