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AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be in spotlight as drug maker reports on Q3

AstraZeneca releases third-quarter results on Thursday whilst Sainsbury and AutoTrader also feature in the diary.

J Sainsbury PLC - AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be in spotlight as drug maker reports on Q3

Coronavirus of course continues to be the major feature in the news cycle, even with the ongoing fallout from America’s election, so AstraZeneca and its vaccine work remains a focal point for investors.

The pharma giant will release its third-quarter results on Thursday. All eyes are on the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine candidate developed with Oxford University, which may be submitted for emergency approval as early as this year.

The market is also eager to hear on the COVID-19 antibody treatment, AZD 4772, which recently entered Phase III clinical trials.

According to AJ Bell, the pharma giant’s wider drug pipeline will also be of keen interest, since it has 37 treatments in Phase I trials, 45 in Phase II and 11 in Phase III, across its three specialist areas of oncology, cardiovascular, renal and metabolism and finally respiratory and immunology.

“The pipeline is key as that represents the future,” A Bell's analysts noted.

“Remember that at the first-half stage, ten drugs generated US$4.6bn of sales, or nearly three-quarters of the total, and three of those showed drops in sales as they are off-patent and open to generic competition – they were Pulmicort, Crestor and Nexium and they were down to 12% of Q2 sales.”

Investors will also want to know whether the previously shared guidance for the full year still applies, after chief executive Pascal Soriot forecast high-single-digit to low-double-digit percentage sales growth and mid-to-high teens percentage growth in what it terms as Core Earnings Per Share, which excludes restructuring expenses, amortisation and impairment of intangible assets and other items.

Consensus places the latter at US$4 per share, up from US$3.50 a year ago.

Sainsbury’s shows its receipts

Supermarket J Sainsbury PLC (LON:SBRY) will deliver its half-year results on Thursday, with digital strategy and online shopping likely to be the key areas of interest beyond the figures.

Like most of Britain’s supermarkets, the group has benefited from the accelerated shift to online grocery shopping caused by the coronavirus pandemic, although the trend has slowed recently as shoppers attempt to return to in-store shopping as lockdown restrictions have relaxed.

However, with fresh lockdown restrictions likely to emerge in the coming months, investors will be hoping the company can hang on to its new influx of digital shoppers as the crucial Christmas period approaches. This may result in some price cutting activity, which is likely to erode profit margins.

Meanwhile, the group could provide some surprises in its general merchandise division, particularly through its Argos brand, as lockdown encourages more customers to buy non-grocery items and collect them during the weekly shop. However, this trend may begin to splutter if consumer spending begins to tighten in the wake of economic difficulties.

Auto Trader rides in with interims

Thursday will also see interim results from car marketplace Auto Trader Group plc (LON:AUTO), with investors likely hoping the firm has benefitted from the pandemic driving more traffic to its websites.

In its final results in June the company said it was still confident in its long-term growth prospects and that it believed the pandemic will “only accelerate the shift towards greater digitalisation of the car buying process”, so investors will be hoping this acceleration has bled into the figures, particularly as lockdown measures have relaxed and people begin venturing out again, increasing demand for vehicles.

However, with new restrictions creeping back in slowly and the threat of another national lockdown looming, the outlook statement will likely be the clincher for many shareholders as to whether the firm may be about to pump the brakes on growth.

Thursday November 5

BoE rates decision, Fed rates decision

Trading updates: AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN), Amryt Pharma PLC (LON:AMYT), Superdry PLC (LON:SDRY), RSA Insurance Group PLC (LON:RSA), DWF Group PLC (LON:DWF), Hansard Global PLC (LON:HSD), Lancashire Holdings Ltd (LON:LRE), Derwent London PLC (LON:DLN), Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC (LON:HIK), Inchcape PLC (LON:INCH), TI Fluid Systems PLC (LON:TIFS)

Finals: Bowleven PLC (LON:BLVN), RDI REIT PLC (LON:RDI)

Interims: J Sainsbury PLC (LON:SBRY), Auto Trader Group plc (LON:AUTO), Aveva Group PLC (LON:AVV), Trainline PLC (LON:TRN), Wizz Air Holdings PLC (LON:WIZZ), Wincanton PLC (LON:WIN), Biffa PLC (LON:BIFF), Tate & Lyle PLC (LON:TATE)

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