AstraZeneca to unveil 2010 results


AstraZeneca is due to kick off the blue-chip results season

City heavyweights AstraZeneca and BSkyB are due to kick off the blue-chip results season this week, but the major focus will be on figures detailing the performance of the UK economy in the final three months of 2010.

Official figures released on Tuesday are expected to reveal economic growth in the three months to December slowed down once again.

The rate of GDP growth – a broad measure for the health of the total economy – is forecast to come in at 0.4% for the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to 0.7% in the previous three months and 1.1% in the second quarter.

The end of the construction blip – which has boosted growth in previous quarters – and the impact of the snow on economic activity in December are both expected to hit GDP in the quarter.

Meanwhile all the headlines regarding BSkyB in recent weeks have been about its proposed takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

But the satellite broadcaster will attempt to turn the focus back on to its strong performance when it reports interim results on Thursday.

Analysts expect Sky to post pre-tax profits of £454 million in the half-year, a 27% increase on the previous year, as it continues to win new customers.

Things are not so rosy at pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca, which has had a torrid year which is likely to be reflected in subdued profits growth in its annual results on Thursday.

The group has been hampered by problems with its newest medicines, increased legal costs and greater competition from cheaper rivals.

Keith Bowman, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical group, is expected to post a 1.9% rise in pre-tax profits of 13 billion US dollars (£8.2 billion).

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