AstraZeneca makes statement with £1.24bn lung drugs deal

AstraZeneca took a major step to build up its respiratory medicine business yesterday by striking a deal worth up to $2.1bn (£1.24bn) for the rights to Spanish group Almirall’s lung drugs.

The British drugmaker, which resisted a $118bn takeover attempt by Pfizer in May, said it would pay an initial $875m and up to $1.22bn more if the drugs meet development and sales targets.

The tie-up boosts a key therapeutic area for AstraZeneca, whose chief executive Pascal Soriot is determined to show his company has a strong independent future.

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Soriot also struck a clinical trial collaboration with Japan’s Kyowa Hakko Kirin for a study that will evaluate a combination of the two companies’ drugs in cancer – another important field for AstraZeneca.

For Almirall, the deal with AstraZeneca is a notable win that will give it extra resources to increase its focus on dermatology.

The company is a local success story whose shares have strongly outperformed the Spanish market in the past three years.

AstraZeneca will have the right to develop and commercialise Almirall’s existing lung drugs – including its recently launched treatment Eklira or aclidinium – as well as its pipeline of experimental therapies.

Almirall Sofotec, an Almirall subsidiary focussed on the development of devices for delivering respiratory drugs, will also transfer to AstraZeneca.

Importantly, the deal gives AstraZeneca access to revenues from a drug already on the market, in Eklira, helping its sales immediately as it struggles with a wave of patent expiries on its own blockbuster medicines.

The company expects the transaction, which will be paid for from existing cash reserves and using short-term credit facilities, to be neutral to core earnings per share in 2015 and accretive from 2016.

It will not affect the company’s financial outlook for 2014.