AstraZeneca to acquire rights to Almirall's lung drugs

AstraZeneca has agreed to a $2.1-billion deal to acquire the rights to lung drugs developed by Spain's Almirall, The Telegraph newspaper reported.

The deal would also see Almirall Sofotec, an Almirall subsidiary focused on the development of devices for the delivery of respiratory drugs, being transferred to AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca will initially pay $875 million and up to $1.22 billion in development, launch and sales-related milestones.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca said today the company's agreement with Almirall brought strategic and long-term value to AstraZeneca's strong respiratory franchise, one the company's key growth platforms.

The strengthening of the respiratory medicine business comes even as expectations mount that US suitor Pfizer could make a fresh approach for AstraZeneca when its six-month Takeover Panel ban on talks lapses in November.

The US firm made four approaches to AstraZeneca earlier this year, with a  ''full and final'' offer of £55-a-share, valuing the UK group at £69 billion, but was turned down (See: Pfizer drops AstarZeneca take over bid).

The Almirall deal would see, the drug maker obtain the right to develop and market the Spanish firm's existing lung drugs, including its newly launched broncho-inhaler Eklira used by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients and its pipeline of experimental therapies.

The company expects the deal, which would be paid through cash reserves and via short-term credit facilities, to be earnings accretive from 2016.

According to commentators, the tie-up would boost a key therapeutic area for AstraZeneca, as Soriot was determined to show his company had a strong independent future since rejecting Pfizer's unsolicited advance in May.

Soriot had also concluded an agreement with Japan's Kyowa Hakko Kirin for a study that would evaluate a combination of the two companies' drugs in cancer - another important field for AstraZeneca, Reuters reported.

For Almirall, the deal with AstraZeneca comes as a positive development giving it extra resources for increasing its focus on dermatology. Almirall is a Spanish success story with its shares strongly outperforming the country's market in the past three years.

AstraZeneca would get the right to develop and commercialise Almirall's existing lung drugs - including its recently launched treatment Eklira or aclidinium - as also its pipeline of experimental therapies.

Importantly, the deal would give AstraZeneca access to revenues from a drug already on the market, in Eklira, to boost its sales right away as it struggles with a wave of patent expiries on its own blockbuster medicines.