(Reuters) - British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc beat expectations for product sales in the fourth quarter and forecast a second consecutive year of growth, driven by gains in emerging markets including China and demand for its new cancer medicines.
The company was also the latest pharma major to say that it had made extensive preparations for Brexit, adding it assumed that Britain's departure from the European Union would be "orderly" even if it leaves without a deal with Brussels.
Much of AstraZeneca's push to build a strong shelf of newer drugs and turn around a slump in sales is riding on cancer treatments Imfinzi and Lynparza, as it looks to compete with Merck & Co's blockbuster Keytruda.
Oncology drug sales rose 61 percent to $1.78 billion (1.38 billion pounds) in the quarter, while sales from China rose 22 percent to $948 million.
Company shares were seen rising 2 percent at opening, according to traders in London.
Overall product sales in the three months ended Dec. 31 rose 8 percent to $5.77 billion at constant currency, helping return the company to annual sales growth for the first time since 2014 as it recovers from the loss of a number of major patents.
Analysts had forecast product sales of $5.66 billion, according to a company provided consensus.
The company said it expects a high single-digit percentage rise in product sales in 2019.
Total revenue, including royalties and milestone payments, rose 14 percent to $6.42 billion in the fourth quarter, while the company's core earnings came in at $1.58 per share.
Analysts were expecting core earnings of $1.48 per share and total revenue of $6.31 billion.
(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)