Saturday 12 December 2020 2:11 pm

Astrazeneca to buy US drugs firm Alexion for $39bn

Astrazeneca has agreed to buy US drugmaker Alexion in a $39bn (£29.5bn) cash and share deal, as the British pharmaceuticals giant bolsters its presence in the immunology field.

The Cambridge-headquartered firm, which is currently one of the frontrunners in the Covid vaccine arena, announced this afternoon that Alexion shareholders would receive $60 in cash and 2.1 Astrazeneca American Depositary Shares (ADSs) for reach share.

The offer values Alexion at $175 a share, marking a 45 per cent premium on its closing price on Friday.

The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021 and Alexion shareholders look set to own 15 per cent of the combined companies.

The deal will likely strengthen Astrazeneca’s position in areas such as the treatment of blood disorders, immunology and rare diseases.

The deal follows months of speculation that chief executive Pascal Soriot has been hunting for a large target to jump on Astrazeneca’s soaring share price.

Since taking over in 2012, Soriot has pushed the UK drugmaker further into niche fields such as cancer therapies. 

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Astrazeneca shares have risen around seven per cent this year, and almost 70 per cent over the past three years to hit a market value of £107bn.

It comes after the firm took the lead over the summer in the global race for a Covid vaccine, before ultimately being beaten to the chase by both Pfizer and Moderna.

But the UK has hedged its bets on the Astrazeneca vaccine, being produced in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

The government has ordered 100m doses of the jab, compared to 40m of the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine and just 7m of Moderna’s.

Asztrazeneca’s poses significant logistical advantages over its peers, including being easily transported at normal temperatures.

The Anglo-Sweish has pledged it will not make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic, and has reached agreements with governments and international health organisations to sell the drug at a price tag of between $4 and $5, depending on local charges. 

Read more: Analysis: Why dismay over the Astrazeneca vaccine is misplaced

That paves the way for a feasible exit from the coronavirus crisis for developing countries, at a time when the world’s wealthiest countries have gobbled up pre-orders of vaccine supplies. 

Pfizer’s vaccine, meanwhile, costs about $20 a dose, and Moderna’s comes with a price tag of around $15 to $25.