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There was a sense of “don’t look now” about AstraZeneca’s full-year results on Thursday. The important date for investors in the U.K. pharmaceutical group is March 21, when new chief executive officer Pascal Soriot will present his ideas for restoring the ailing company’s fortunes.

In truth, the 2012 numbers were not as terrible as they might have been. But they were enough to remind everyone of how tough a task the restoration will be. A steep drop in sales and earnings per share showed the damage wrought by expiring patents, while investors were not even thrown the bones of a dividend increase or share buyback.

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