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Astrazeneca wins all-clear to swoop on rare disease drug firm Alexion

Astrazeneca wins all-clear for its £28bn swoop on rare disease drug firm Alexion

Astrazeneca has been given the all-clear to buy rare disease drug maker Alexion in a blockbuster £28billion deal.

The Competition and Markets Authority has decided not to open an in-depth investigation into the tie-up, which paves the way for the takeover to complete this month. 

The CMA said in May it was looking into whether the swoop on Alexion could harm competition in the UK.

Astrazeneca boss Pascal Soriot (pictured) has pitched the Alexion deal as a way for the Covid vaccine maker to gain a foothold in potentially lucrative treatments for rare diseases

Astra boss Pascal Soriot has pitched the deal as a way for the Covid vaccine maker to gain a foothold in potentially lucrative treatments for rare diseases, particularly those caused by problems in the immune system, which Boston-based Alexion specialises in.

It is the largest takeover in its history and cements the company’s transformation from prey to predator since it fended off a £69billion bid from rival Pfizer in 2014, when Soriot argued Astra’s best days were still ahead of it.

The CMA’s ruling comes days after EU officials gave the cash-and-shares merger the green light.

US authorities had already waved it through, and shareholders in both companies overwhelmingly voted in favour of the deal in May.

Alexion is known for its blood disease drug Soliris and followed this up with Ultomiris, which was approved two years ago. 

The takeover will lead to £375million in annual savings and means that Alexion’s drugs could be rolled out to more markets, such as China.

Soriot is also betting Alexion’s immunology expertise can open new income streams for the company, which is the largest on the FTSE 100 and has a stable of treatments for cancer, heart and lung disease.

Reactions were mixed when Astra announced the takeover in December, as it was launching its Covid vaccine developed with Oxford University. 

Some analysts were baffled by the proposed tie-up. Others saw it as a shrewd move that would keep it at the front of innovative areas of medicine.

Marc Dunoyer, Astra’s finance chief who will head the new rare disease arm, said: ‘We look forward to the imminent closing of the transaction so that we may pursue our shared ambition to bring more innovative medicines to patients.’

The deal will complete on July 21 and Astra will issue new shares to Alexion investors, who will also receive cash.

The US company will be delisted from the Wall Street Nasdaq exchange.