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16 Mar 2021 | 09:55

Jefferies upgrades AstraZeneca to 'buy', hikes price target

(Sharecast News) - Jefferies upgraded its stance on shares of AstraZeneca to 'buy' from 'hold' on Tuesday saying the pharmaceuticals company's impressive revenue and profit trajectory is compelling relative to EU peers, with improving quality of earnings and cash flow generation set to ease concerns. The bank, which hiked the price target to 8,850p from 8,250p, also said that with the approaching close of the Alexion acquisition, the deal's strategic merits are set to be more widely appreciated.

Jefferies said it's slightly more optimistic than consensus in strong ongoing momentum from key oncology growth drivers Calquence, Imfinzi, Lynparza and Tagrisso.

It also said weak US Phase III Covid-19 vaccine data may provide a buying opportunity.

"Upcoming US Phase III data for Covid-19 vaccine C19VAZ (AZD1222) could look relatively underwhelming due to a sub-optimal 4-week dosing schedule used in the study," it said. "A negative stock reaction to headline results from the US study could represent a buying opportunity, in our view, because it has already been shown that the vaccine works better with a longer dosing interval."

Primary analysis of the Phase III clinical trials from the UK, Brazil and South Africa showed 62% efficacy when given as two standard doses with an interval of between 4 and 12 weeks, but vaccine efficacy increased to 82% with an inter-dose interval of 12 weeks or more, Jefferies noted.

At 1015 GMT, the shares were up 3.2% at 7,202p.

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