AstraZeneca buys majority stake in biopharma company Acerta for $4bn

Sarah Spickernell
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Only last month, the company announced it was purchasing California-based ZS Pharma (Source: Getty)

AstraZeneca has agreed to buy a majority stake of biopharma company Acerta for $4bn (£2.7bn), with the hope of expanding and improving its portfolio of medicines.

Once the transaction goes ahead, the British pharmaceutical giant will take over 55 per cent of the private-owned company, which is based in the US and Netherlands.

Acerta focuses on developing treatments for autoimmune disease and cancer. One of its most successful drugs is blood cancer treatment Acalabrutinib, which is used in place of chemotherapy and antibody treatments.

Read more: AstraZeneca issues $6bn of bonds to fund ZS Pharma acquisition

There will be an initial, up-front payment of $2.5bn for the acquisition, which will be followed by a further $1.5bn in 2018 or on receipt of the first US regulatory approval for Acalabrutinib.

AstraZeneca has the option to buy the remaining 45 per cent of the company for a further $3bn in the future, which would result in a purchase of the whole company for $7bn. This further deal will become possible “when the extent of the commercial opportunity has been fully established”.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said: "We are boosting a key area in our comprehensive oncology portfolio with a late-stage, potential best-in-class medicine that could transform treatment for patients across a range of blood cancers."

Shares in the company were boosted by the news, rising 1.3 per cent at 4,472p in late morning trading.

AstraZeneca is on the verge of losing patents on some of its biggest-selling medicines. At this point other companies will be able to make cheaper spin-offs.

As a result, it is trying to increase its portfolio of new medicines by acquiring other companies.

Last month, it agreed to pay $2.7bn for California-based biotech firm ZS Pharma. This company specialises in the treatment of hyperkalaemia, a serious condition of elevated potassium in the bloodstream, typically associated with chronic kidney disease and chronic heart failure.

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