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15 Dec 2020

AstraZeneca – Alexion $39 billion deal

AstraZeneca has agreed to buy US drugmaker Alexion Pharmaceuticals for $39 billion to bolster its positions in immunology and rare diseases.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. is an American pharmaceutical company. Alexion focuses on immune system research related to autoimmune diseases.  Soliris is a major successful brand of Alexion. Soliris treats the rare disorders atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH). It employs around 2,400 people worldwide. In February 2016, the company held the dedication ceremony for its new headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut, not far from the company’s starting point in the same city. 

In September 2017, Alexion announced it would be moving its headquarters to Boston, Massachusetts, in mid-2018. Now on December 2020, AstraZeneca has agreed to buy US drugmaker Alexion Pharmaceuticals for $39 billion.

Strategic rationale: Why this deal?

Both companies share the same dedication to science and innovation to deliver life-changing medicines. The capabilities of both organisations will create a company with great strengths across a range of technology platforms, with the ability to bring innovative medicines to millions of people worldwide. The combined company will also have an enhanced global footprint and broad coverage across primary, speciality and highly specialised care.

AstraZeneca will have bolster it’s presence in immunology

AstraZeneca has built a growing scientific presence in oncology, and in cardiovascular, renal and metabolism, and respiratory diseases, with a focus on organ protection. It has developed a broad range of technologies, initially focused on small molecules and biologics and with a growing focus in precision medicine, genomics, oligonucleotides and epigenetics. More recently, AstraZeneca has increased its efforts in immunology research and the development of medicines for immune-mediated diseases.

Access to leading brands Soliris and Ultomiris

Alexion has pioneered complement inhibition for a broad spectrum of immune-mediated rare diseases caused by uncontrolled activation of the complement system, a vital part of the immune system. Alexion’s franchise includes Soliris (eculizumab), a first-in-class anti-complement component 5 (C5) monoclonal antibody. The medicine is approved in many countries for the treatment of patients with paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH), atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome, generalized myasthenia gravis and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder. More recently, Alexion launched Ultomiris (ravulizumab), a second-generation C5 monoclonal antibody with a more convenient dosing regimen.

Alexion Immunology Expertise

Alexion’s immunology expertise extends to other targets in the complement cascade beyond C5 as well as additional modalities, with its deep pipeline including Factor D small-molecule inhibitors of the alternative pathway of the complement system, an antibody blocking neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn)-mediated recycling, and a bi-specific mini-body targeting C5, among others. The FcRn extends the half-life and hence the availability of pathogenic immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies.

Dedicated clinical development pipeline

AstraZeneca, with Alexion’s R&D team, will work to build on Alexion’s pipeline of 11 molecules across more than 20 clinical-development programmes across the spectrum of indications, in rare diseases and beyond.

Alexion’s leading expertise in complement biology will accelerate AstraZeneca’s growing presence in immunology. The acquisition adds a new technology platform to AstraZeneca’s science and innovation-driven strategy. The complement cascade is pivotal to the innate immune system. It plays a crucial role in many inflammatory and autoimmune diseases across multiple therapy areas, including haematology, nephrology, neurology, metabolic disorders, cardiology, ophthalmology and acute care. In contrast, AstraZeneca’s capabilities in genomics, precision medicine and oligonucleotides can be leveraged to develop medicines targeting less-frequent diseases. Combining AstraZeneca’s capabilities in precision medicine and Alexion’s expertise in rare-disease development and commercialisation will enable the new company to develop a portfolio of medicines addressing the large unmet needs of patients suffering from rare diseases.

The combined companies will bring together two rapidly converging, patient-centric models of care delivery with combined strengths in immunology, biologics, genomics and oligonucleotides to drive future medicine innovation. AstraZeneca intends to establish Boston, Massachusetts, US as its headquarters for rare diseases, capitalising on talent in the greater Boston area.

Revenue Growth

AstraZeneca’s acquisition of Alexion, with its strong commercial portfolio and robust pipeline, will support its long-term ambition to develop novel medicines in areas of immunology with high unmet medical needs. Alexion achieved impressive revenue growth over the last few years, with revenues of $5.0bn in 2019 (21% year-on-year growth). Alexion has exhibited skilful commercial execution in building its ‘blockbuster’ C5 franchise. The success of the franchise is demonstrated by the effective transition of over 70% of PNH patients from Soliris to Ultomiris in less than two years of launch in its key markets, including the US, Japan and Germany, as well as the strong pipeline of additional indications for Ultomiris.

Rare diseases is a high-growth therapy area with rapid innovation and significant unmet medical need. Over 7,000 rare diseases are known today, and only c.5% have US Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments.1 The global rare disease market is forecasted to grow by a low double digit percentage in the future.2

AstraZeneca intends to build on its geographical footprint and extensive emerging markets presence to accelerate the worldwide expansion of Alexion’s portfolio.

The two companies have been on converging paths, AstraZeneca expanding its presence from primary to speciality care, whereas Alexion has been progressing from ultra-orphan to orphan and speciality conditions.

The acquisition strengthens AstraZeneca’s industry-leading growth, underpinned by its broad portfolio of medicines, which will enable the new company to bring innovative medicines to a broad range of healthcare practitioners in primary, speciality and highly specialised care.

The combined company is expected to deliver double-digit average annual revenue growth through 2025.

Financial benefits

The acquisition is expected to improve the combined Group’s profitability, with the core operating margin significantly enhanced in the short term, and with continued expansion thereafter. This uplift is supported by increased scale and expected recurring run-rate pre-tax synergies of c.$500m per year from the combined Group (by end of the third year following completion of the acquisition). AstraZeneca expects to generate significant value from the acquisition by extending Alexion’s commercial reach through leveraging AstraZeneca’s global presence and accelerating the development of Alexion’s pipeline.

The acquisition is expected to deliver robust and sustainable accretion to AstraZeneca’s core earnings per share (EPS) from the outset, with double-digit percentage accretion anticipated in the first three years following the completion of the acquisition.

The acquisition of Alexion is consistent with AstraZeneca’s capital-allocation priorities. The combined company is expected to maintain a strong, investment-grade credit rating, and the acquisition supports AstraZeneca’s progressive dividend policy. The combination represents a significant step in AstraZeneca’s strategic and financial-growth plans.

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