Watchdog to probe Astrazeneca’s swoop on Alexion Pharmaceuticals

Competition watchdog to investigate Astrazeneca’s £27.5bn swoop on Alexion Pharmaceuticals

Astrazeneca’s £27.5billion swoop on Alexion Pharmaceuticals is to be investigated by the UK competition watchdog.

The drugs giant, whose vaccine is at the centre of the war on Covid, is buying the rare diseases specialist as it expands into new lucrative areas of treatment.

Boss Pascal Soriot has said the deal could turn Astra into Britain’s most valuable listed company.

Pascal Soriot (pictured) has said the £27.5bn deal to buy Alexion Pharmaceuticals could propel Astrazeneca  to become Britain’s most valuable listed company

But the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an inquiry into the merger, saying it is looking at whether it fits the criteria for a deeper probe and risks resulting in less competition.

The merger has been approved by Astra and Alexion’s shareholders, and US competition authorities. 

It was not clear yesterday whether the CMA had homed in on any particular issue. It would not comment on the probe.

However, in a sign of confidence, Astra said the deal is still expected to complete in September.

Soriot has pitched the takeover as a way for his firm to gain a foothold in lucrative treatments for rare diseases, particularly those caused by problems in the immune system, which Alexion specialises in.

Boston-based Alexion is already known for its flagship blood disease drug Soliris and has followed this up with Ultomiris, which was approved two years ago and has seen sales rocket.

Soriot is betting Alexion’s immunology expertise can open up new avenues of income.

Under Soriot, Astra has already rebuilt its drugs pipeline and boasts a formidable portfolio of blockbuster cancer drugs.