AstraZeneca to Acquire Almirall Lung Drugs for $875 Million

Jul 30, 2014 1:16 pm ET

(Updates with legal advisers in last paragraph.)

July 30 (Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc, the U.K. drugmaker that resisted a Pfizer Inc. takeover attempt, is building up its respiratory business by buying the rights to Almirall SA’s lung medicines for $875 million.

AstraZeneca will pay as much as $1.22 billion more if the drugs meet development and sales goals, the London-based company said in a statement today. Almirall, based in Barcelona, also will transfer its Sofotec inhalation device unit to AstraZeneca.

The deal adds to the $3.5 billion-a-year Symbicort treatment and gives AstraZeneca new versions of the medicines for chronic lung disease it acquired from Pearl Therapeutics last year. Because AstraZeneca already has a strong presence in respiratory medicine, today’s deal won’t have much impact on the company or its share price, said Mark Clark, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in London.

“It’s an OK deal, but it’s not the one to cause people to fundamentally reassess Astra, particularly vis a vis their continuing independence” from Pfizer, Clark said.

The deal will have no effect on AstraZeneca’s earnings next year and will add to them in 2016, AstraZeneca said.

Shares Rise

Almirall rose 7.9 percent, the biggest gain in more than two years, to 11.60 euros in Madrid. The company has a market value of about 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion). Chairman Jorge Gallardo and First Vice Chairman Antonio Gallardo own about 67 percent of the stock via two holding companies. AstraZeneca climbed less than 1 percent to 4,357.50 pence.

As part of the agreement, AstraZeneca will acquire Eklira, also called Tudorza Pressair, a treatment for smoking-related diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema, which recorded 84 million euros in sales in 2013 and made up 12 percent of Almirall’s revenue.

Another lung drug, Ebastel, had revenues of 76 million euros. Almirall’s respiratory drugs combined for 211 million euros in sales.

Almirall is applying for U.S. approval to market a combination of Eklira with formoterol, developed with New York- based partner Forest Laboratories Inc. Although the combination is approved in Europe, U.S. regulators asked for additional data. Actavis Plc bought Forest this month.

Glaxo Competition

The Eklira-formoterol combination of drugs could come on the market faster than a treatment AstraZeneca acquired last year from Pearl Therapeutics, and could compete with GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Anoro and Novartis AG’s Ultibro, said Michael Shah and Sam Fazeli, analysts for Bloomberg Intelligence, in a research note.

Glaxo, AstraZeneca’s larger rival, last week cut its forecast for the year as revenue from its best-selling lung medicine Advair continued to fall. Efforts to introduce newer respiratory drugs Anoro and Breo have taken longer to bear fruit than the company anticipated.

AstraZeneca rejected Pfizer’s bid of $117 billion in May, saying the U.K. drugmaker’s pipeline of experimental drugs made it more valuable as a standalone company. In a June interview, Pascal Soriot, the chief executive officer, said AstraZeneca wouldn’t make big takeovers part of its defense strategy, although he said he would consider small to medium-sized acquisitions.

Rothschild was sole financial adviser to Almirall on the deal. Covington & Burling LLP provided legal advice to AstraZeneca while CMS Cameron McKenna LLP provided legal advice to Almirall.

--With assistance from Manuel Baigorri in London.