It is a lofty price but AstraZeneca believes acalabrutinib could
sell more than $5 billion a year, supporting its return to growth
and completing the transformation of the drugmaker's oncology
"By doing a dilutive acquisition we don't make our lives easier in
the short term but we are committed to our stated goals and we will
manage through," Chief Executive Pascal Soriot told reporters on
Future acalabrutinib revenue would be on top of the $45 billion
sales target for 2023 set out last year, he added.
AstraZeneca may end up paying as much as $7 billion if it acquires
the rest of Acerta, reflecting fierce competition among
pharmaceutical companies for promising new drugs in the hot field of
It is a bold move by Soriot, who has been overhauling AstraZeneca
since he arrived three years ago. Deutsche Bank analyst Richard
Parkes said the deal looked smart but could divide investors.
"While significant clinical and commercial risks remain, the
transaction could ultimately prove a stroke of genius, adding a
multibillion-dollar potential drug launch in 2017 that could
accelerate AstraZeneca’s re-emergence as a major force in oncology,"
BETTER THAN IMBRUVICA?
Acalabrutinib works in a similar way to AbbVie and Johnson &
Johnson's product Imbruvica. But AstraZeneca believes the new
medicine, which is now in final-stage testing, could be
best-in-class, since it has fewer side effects than Imbruvica and
potentially better efficacy. Other rival drugs are further behind in
AstraZeneca will pay $2.5 billion upfront, funded from cash and
debt, with a further $1.5 billion paid either on receipt of the
first regulatory approval for acalabrutinib or at the end of 2018,
depending on which comes first.
Acerta shareholders will have the option to sell the remaining 45
percent of shares in the biotech company to AstraZeneca for
approximately $3 billion, once acalabrutinib has been approved in
both the United States and Europe.
Acalabrutinib is expected to be submitted for regulatory approval in
the second half of 2016.
[to top of second column]
Soriot said the deal was consistent with his drive to build up the
cancer business, although he did not expect to buy in many more
The new medicine is a so-called Burton's tyrosine kinase inhibitor
that targets an array of blood cancers and potentially some solid
tumors. It may also help in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid
arthritis and lupus.
Adding Acerta boosts AstraZeneca's pipeline as sales of older
blockbuster products, including cholesterol fighter Crestor and
heartburn pill Nexium, lose patent protection and it marks the
latest in a run of bolt-on acquisitions.
Last month AstraZeneca agreed to buy ZS Pharma, a specialist in
treating high potassium levels, for $2.7 billion and on Wednesday it
clinched a deal to pay $575 million for Takeda's respiratory
The Acerta agreement, which is due to complete in the first quarter
of 2016, is expected to dilute earnings "moderately" in the near
term, AstraZeneca said.
The drugmaker had announced on Monday that it was exploring
potential strategic options with Acerta, which is based in the
Netherlands and California.
Goldman Sachs and Jefferies advised Acerta. AstraZeneca declined to
provide details on its advisers.
(Editing by Jason Neely and Keith Weir)
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