Monday 8 June 2020 7:54 am

Astrazeneca approaches Gilead about potential merger

British pharmaceuticals giant Astrazeneca has approached US rival Gilead Sciences over a potential merger in what would form the biggest healthcare deal on record, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

The Cambridge-based firm contacted Gilead last month in a bid to gauge interest in a possible deal, but did not provide details of any transaction, according to Bloomberg.

Read more: Astrazeneca reaches global agreements to produce 2bn coronavirus vaccine doses

Astrazeneca, currently valued at £110bn, recently tipped ahead of Royal Dutch Shell to become the UK’s largest company by market value. A merger between the two drugmakers would create the world’s biggest ever healthcare tie-up, creating a company worth around £200bn.

It comes as the two pharmaceuticals titans compete in the global race to develop a vaccine for coronavirus.

Astrazeneca is working with researchers at Oxford University on a Covid-19 vaccine, for which it secured orders for 400m doses in May. The firm yesterday said it was close to a breakthrough on an antibody treatment that could save the lives of people who become infected. 

Gilead, worth around £74bn at market close on Friday, is the creator of Remdesivir, a drug that has received approval in the US and South Korea for use with coronavirus patients.

Read more: Hopes dashed as Gilead’s coronavirus drug remdesivir fails in first trial

Almost 7m people have now been infected with the novel virus and almost 400,000 have died, a Reuters tally showed yesterday.

Bloomberg reported that while Gilead has discussed the potential deal with advisers, no decisions have been made and the rival companies are not in formal talks. 

Gilead, the world’s largest manufacturer of HIV drugs, declined to comment on the report. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Astrazeneca said the company doesn’t comment on “rumors or speculation.”

Read more: GSK plans to make 1bn coronavirus vaccine booster shots

Shares of Astrazeneca have rocketed around 40 per cent in the last 12 months, hitting record highs in late April as its cancer drug Tagrisso generated first-quarter revenue of £774m. Gilead’s share price, meanwhile, has gained 20 per cent since the beginning of the year. 

Astrazeneca and Gilead did not respond to requests for comment.