AstraZeneca is cutting a further 7,300 jobs and expects earnings to fall this year as patents on key drugs expire and governments in Europe and the United States squeeze prices.

Britain's second-biggest drugmaker said on Thursday the latest phase of cost cutting would deliver a further $1.6 billion (1 billion pounds) in annual benefits by the end of 2014.

Core earnings this year, which exclude some items, are forecast by the company to be between $6.00 and $6.30 a share, down from $7.28 in 2011.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, earnings rose 16 percent to $1.61 per share -- broadly in line with analyst expectations of around $1.60 -- on flat sales of $8.66 billion. Profit was buoyed last year by an unusually low tax rate.

Analysts, on average, had forecast sales in the quarter of $8.55 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler)