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Pfizer leaves investors guessing on intentions for Astra

By Ransdell Pierson

(Reuters) - Pfizer Inc , which in May abandoned its $118 billion bid to buy AstraZeneca Plc , on Tuesday left investors guessing whether it would renew its pursuit of its British rival, but said it was considering other deals.

The largest U.S. drugmaker reported higher-than-expected second-quarter revenue, helped by growing demand for its cancer medicines. But overall sales fell on competition with newer rival drugs and cheaper generics, trends that have quickened Pfizer’s efforts to buy companies and drugs that can bolster its medicine chest.

Under UK takeover rules, AstraZeneca can attempt to re-engage with Pfizer in August, and Pfizer can make another run at AstraZeneca in November. But Pfizer officials on Tuesday gave no hints of whether they would do so.

"I think it's best to remain silent," Chief Executive Officer Ian Read said on an investor conference call, citing the UK rules.

Pfizer officially gave up its six-month quest to buy AstraZeneca after its final bid was rejected. It had hoped to locate the combined company in Britain, which has lower taxes than the United States, a maneuver called tax inversion.

Read said Pfizer was looking at other deals in the meantime and that taxes would be only part of the value consideration.

He said Pfizer shareholders appreciated the company's limiting the final Astra offer to 55 pounds a share, rather than the minimum of 59 pounds that the British company had wanted.

Pfizer shares have been flat this year, against an 11 percent gain for the drug sector, due to declining revenue.

Well-known Pfizer products such as the Celebrex painkiller, Lyrica nerve pain treatment and anti-impotence drug Viagra will face generic competition in the next four years. The looming patent expirations are weighing heavily on the stock and putting pressure on Pfizer to acquire new products through deals.

Pfizer said it had earned $2.91 billion, or 45 cents per share, in the second quarter. That compared with $14.1 billion, or $1.98 per share, a year earlier, when it received more than $10 billion in proceeds from the spinoff of its animal health business, creating Zoetis .

Excluding special items, Pfizer earned 58 cents per share. Analysts on average expected 57 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales fell 2 percent to $12.77 billion but exceeded Wall Street expectations of $12.46 billion.

Sales of oncology medicines rose 16 percent to $570 million, but generic medicines that Pfizer calls established products and sells in emerging markets had lower sales.

Pfizer stuck to its prior earnings forecast of $2.20 to $2.30 per share for the full year.

Merck & Co , the second-biggest U.S. drugmaker, also reported higher-than-expected quarterly results on Tuesday.

Pfizer shares slipped 0.2 percent to $30.02 in midday trading.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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