Pfizer managed to beat performance expectations for the third quarter, as results were given a leg up by solid demand in emerging markets (up 9%) and strong sales of its cancer drugs, which grew 17%.

The drug giant booked earnings of $2.67 billion, or $0.42 a share for the period, inching up from $2.59 billion, or $0.39 per share, a year ago, though last year’s standing was pulled down by restructuring costs.

Excluding special items, earnings per share (EPS) hit $0.57, just beating the $0.55 expected by Reuters-polled analysts, and sales, while down 2% at $12.36 billion, also reportedly beat Wall Street’s forecast of $12.24.

Pfizer narrowed its full-year EPS forecast to $2.23-$2.27 from the earlier $2.20 to $2.30, and chief financial officer Frank D’Amelio, said he was pleased with the quarter overall, “despite the continued negative impact from product losses of exclusivity and the termination of certain co-promotion collaborations”. He also noted that a new $11 billion share repurchase program has been authorised by the Board.

Chief Executive Ian Read talked of the firm’s “continued strong financial position”, and that Pfizer is “well positioned to potentially allocate capital for the benefit of shareholders across multiple financial and strategic opportunities”.

Big move?

Nevertheless, industry observers believe that, given its current limp growth prospects, Pfizer will have to make some pretty dramatic moves - such as a big buy or break-up - to help counter the wave of patent expirations ebbing from its portfolio, including the blockbuster Celebrex which is expected to face generic erosion imminently.

But interestingly, the firm gave no hint as to whether its intends to take another run at AstraZeneca when UK laws reopen the door to a fresh attempt next month, although many media outlets are reporting that chief executive Ian Reed hasn’t ruled out going after acquisitions to cut the firm’s tax bill.

The US Treasury recently moved to decrease the attraction of ‘inversion deals’, under which companies move their official addresses abroad to pay less tax, but according to the Wall Street Journal Mr Read said during a conference call that such deal are still “potential source of creating value” for Pfizer.