AstraZeneca hungry to refill medicine cabinet
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON (Reuters) - Simon Lowth may only be the interim chief executive of AstraZeneca Plc but he is ready to sign off on bold deals.
The decision to pair up with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co to buy diabetes specialist Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc shows the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker is stepping up its deal-making, despite the management hiatus at the top of the company.
AstraZeneca is chipping in $3.4 billion for a half share in Amylin's products for the fast-growing type 2 diabetes market.
"The strategy is clear and this acquisition and collaboration is bang in the middle of that strategy," Lowth said in an interview on Saturday.
"We can drop Amylin straight into the portfolio of our existing global diabetes alliance with Bristol-Myers and, of course, we also share the capital cost, which gives us strength to pursue further opportunities."
The deal is AstraZeneca's biggest since its poorly received purchase of another U.S. biotechnology company, MedImmune, for $15.6 billion in 2007. And, importantly, it signals that new chairman Leif Johansson endorses the group's renewed focus on external deals.
Faced with one of the steepest "patent cliffs" in the pharmaceutical industry, which will savage sales of its current top-selling medicines over the next five years, AstraZeneca has been under mounting pressure to do something to shore up its business.
Investor dissatisfaction led to the abrupt departure of previous CEO David Brennan and the early appointment of Johansson, a former boss of truckmaker Volvo, as non-executive chairman from June 1. Continued...