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LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca, struggling with loss of patents on blockbusters like cholesterol pill Crestor, reported another quarter of falling drug sales on Thursday as it awaits pivotal clinical trial data that may revive its fortunes.
Despite income from disposals and external deals, first-quarter revenue fell 12 percent to $5.4 billion, although core earnings per share (EPS) rose 4 percent in dollar terms to 99 cents.
Industry analysts, on average, had forecast revenue of $5.4 billion and earnings of 82 cents, according to Thomson Reuters data.
So-called "externalisation" revenue, which some analysts argue unduly flatters AstraZeneca's results, contributed $562 million, as product sales fell 13 percent.
AstraZeneca reiterated its expectation that full-year revenue would fall at a low to mid single-digit percentage rate, with core EPS dropping by a low to mid-teens percentage.
Chief Executive Pascal Soriot believes 2017 will mark the trough for the British group, as it starts to put generic losses behind it and builds up sales of newer medicines, particularly in cancer.
"The total revenue performance reflected the transitional impact of recent patent expiries, which is expected to recede in the second half of the year," he said.
For investors, owning AstraZeneca shares represents a major bet on the company's oncology portfolio. It is already doing well with new cancer pills Tagrisso and Lynparza, but the really big opportunity lies in cancer immunotherapy.
Results from its closely watched MYSTIC immunotherapy trial in previously untreated lung cancer patients are expected mid-year. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler)