AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan announces early retirement as first quarter profit falls 38%

Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca plc (LSE:AZN) (STO:AZN) (NYSE:AZN) announced today that its chief executive, David Brennan, has decided to retire and step down from the board at the start of June.

Executive director and chief financial officer Simon Lowth will take over as interim chief executive officer from 1 June 2012 until a permanent successor is in place. At the same time Julie Brown, vice president Group Finance, will become interim chief financial officer

Louis Schweitzer will also retire as non-executive chairman on 1 June 2012, three months earlier than originally planned. He will be succeeded on that date by Leif Johansson, who will become chairman of the Nomination and Governance Committee after today’s annual general meeting, AstraZeneca said.

The departure of AstraZeneca’s top two executives was announced on the day the company published its first quarter financial results, revealing that pre-tax profit for the period fell 38% to USD2.05bn, from USD3.29bn a year earlier. Core earnings per share (EPS) amounted to USD1.81, a 19% decline at constant exchange rates compared with the first quarter last year. Excluding two one-off gains last year, core EPS would have increased by 2%.

Revenue for January-March totalled USD7.35bn, a decrease of 11% at constant exchange rates.

AstraZeneca blamed the disappointing results on a loss of exclusivity on several key brands, which it said accounted for eight percentage points of the revenue decline.

Meanwhile revenue from emerging markets increased by 1% at constant exchange rates, reflecting anticipated quarterly phasing. The company expects a rebound in the remaining three quarters, but said that achieving double-digit growth for the full year may be a challenge.

Looking ahead, AstraZeneca has lowered its core EPS target for the full year to the range of USD5.85 to USD6.15 and said that the decline in revenue for the full year is expected to be in the range of the low to mid-teens in constant currency terms.

Supermarket giant Tesco reports declining profits in home market

UK-based supermarket retailer Tesco plc (LSE:TSCO) announced today an increase in group profit for the year to 25 February 2012 but a decrease in profit generated in its home market.

Pre-tax profit for the 12-month period rose 5.3% to GBP3.8bn. In the UK Tesco’s profit fell 1.0% to GBP2.5bn, while its international operations recorded profit of GBP1.1bn, up 17.7% compared with the previous year.

Tesco has been working on plans to revive its fortunes in the UK grocery sector and the company announced today that it has committed GBP1bn to improve the shopping trip for customers. This investment will be targeted at recruiting more store staff, speeding up store updates to bring a warmer look and feel, offering better prices and promotions, re-launching the Tesco brands and offering better ranges, providing clearer and more relevant communication with customers and rolling out its Click & Collect online ordering service.

The company said that it will take on more than 8,000 new staff in existing stores and will create a total of 20,000 net new jobs over a period of two years.

Commenting on the year’s results, chief executive Philip Clarke said, “Whilst our International business is delivering excellent growth, contributing GBP1.1bn of profit to the group, we fully recognise that we need to raise our game in the UK.”

Tesco’s group sales for the year increased by 7.4% to GBP72.0bn, or a 5.9% increase excluding petrol.