AstraZeneca's third-quarter net profit came in at 32 percent higher than a year ago, as a substantial one-time tax gain and currency exchange benefit helped weather falling sales during the period.

The drugs giant saw its sales slip 4 percent to $5.7 billion, just missing analyst expectations of $5.8 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal, as generic competition ate into revenues from its flagship cholesterol drug Crestor (rosuvastatin), which plummeted 82 percent to $124 million.

But a one-off benefit of $453 million, relating to an agreement between tax authorities in the UK, Sweden and Canada in respect of transfer pricing arrangements, helped lift net profit 32 percent to $1.01 billion; at constant exchange rates, though, growth was substantially lower at 4 percent.

On the plus side sales of cancer drug Faslodex (fulvestrant) jumped 11 percent to $207 million, cardiovascular therapy Brilinta (ticagrelor) jumped 25 percent to $208 million, diabetes drug Fargixa (dapagliflozin) rocketed 64 percent to $220 million, and respiratory medicine Pulmicort (budesonide) grew 4 percent to $224 million.

AZ' chief executive Pascal Soriot said third-quarter performance "was in line with our expectations, reflecting the transitional impact from the first full quarter of generic competition to Crestor in the US."

He also said the firm's late-stage pipeline "continued to advance at a pace we could not have anticipated three years ago" and that, looking forward, an "intensive period of news flow over the next twelve months, in particular revealing the potential of our Immuno-Oncology and targeted medicines," is expected.

Over the year to date, AZ' reported earnings per share (EPS) have dropped by 26 percent, reflecting a 5 percent fall in product sales to $17.4 billion, while core EPS fell 10 percent, reflecting the phasing of other operating income towards the final quarter of the year, it noted.

Full year guidance remains unchanged, with a low to single digit decline in both revenues and core EPS.