AstraZeneca in $6.9 Billion Rights Share Deal

03.04.2019 -

In a move to accelerate the development of its oncology franchise, AstraZeneca has agreed a $6.9 billion deal with Japanese pharma major Daiichi Sankyo to share rights to a new breast cancer drug called DS-8201.

To finance the transaction as well as pay down debt, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said it plans to raise up to $3.5 billion through a share placing.

Analysts said the deal looks like a logical strategic move but warned that the equity increase could disappoint some investors. Several said the company obviously doesn't have the cash needed for the ambitious purchase and that the share issue seems expensive relative to debt.

In a talk with the Bloomberg news agency, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said the purchase builds on the drugmaker’s existing breast cancer franchise. He declined to name an expected peak sales figure for the Japanese drug but said that two comparative treatments on the market have collective annual sales of around $80 million.

Pharmaceutical journals commented that this is the first major strategic deal for AstraZeneca since Jose Baselga joined the company as executive vice president for oncology research and development this January.

Baselga previously served as physician-in-chief at New York City-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which became the leader in early-stage clinical trials for cancer therapies and diagnostic genetic sequencing.

In other news, the trade union GMB has claimed that the British-headquartered drugmaker plans to eliminate 94 of the 1,800 positions at its Macclesfield facility in Cheshire, UK, up to 2020, The company has not commented.  The site, which makes medicines such as legacy prostate cancer drug Zoladex, is AstraZeneca’s second largest manufacturing facility.

The union said employees were told that efficiency improvements at the site had reduced personnel needs. Earlier this year, the company said it would close two plants in Boulder and Longmont, Colorado, USA, and lay off 210 workers. This reflected plans to consolidate biologics manufacturing at a large-scale facility in Frederick, Maryland.