Astrazeneca acquires US-based ZS Pharma in £1.8bn deal

AstraZeneca said on Friday it had agreed to buy U.S biotech company ZS Pharma for $2.7 billion (£1.77 billion), pipping Swiss firm Actelion to the prize in the latest bout of deal-making for the hyperactive healthcare sector.

The British firm, which on Thursday lifted its full-year earnings forecast despite the eroding sales of some of its top-selling medicines, said it would pay $90 a share to secure ZS Pharma’s proprietary technology to develop novel treatments for hyperkalaemia, or high potassium levels.

Actelion revealed in September it had initiated talks with ZS Pharma that could have led to a bid.

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“This acquisition complements our strategic focus on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease by adding a potential best-in-class treatment to our portfolio of innovative medicines,” AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said.

Facing the loss of patent protection for some older products, Astra has engineered several bolt-on acquisitions to help build up its pipeline of new drugs. This year it has also divested certain non-core products to boost its profit line.

Hyperkalaemia is typically associated with chronic kidney disease and chronic heart failure, AstraZeneca said, adding that peak sales of the company’s ZS-9 potassium-binding compound, which is under review by the FDA, were forecast to exceed $1 billion.

Astra said the deal would not impact its financial guidance for 2015. It is expected to generate Product Sales from 2016, with minimal earnings dilution over 2016 and 2017, before it becomes accretive to core earnings from 2018.