AstraZeneca to acquire US biotech firm MedImmune for $15.6 billion

Mumbai: AstraZeneca plc will acquire MedImmune Inc, a Maryland, US-based biotechnology company for $15.6 billion.

AstraZeneca, the London-based drugmaker, has been struggling to develop new medicines and the acquisition of MedImmune will give the drug maker access to new flu vaccines and an antiviral treatment for babies.

AstraZeneca reported failure of four new experimental drug candidates in the past year. MedImmune will bring with it the FluMist influenza vaccine, the infant lung treatment Synagis and 45 products under development.

The acquisition has been made at $58 a share for MedImmune, 21 per cent above the stock''s April 20 closing price of $48.01, AstraZeneca said.

MedImmune agreed for the acquisition after it put itself up for sale on April 11 under pressure from billionaire and activist investor Carl Icahn and other shareholders.

New York-based Icahn Icahn acquired a 1.2 per cent stake in MedImmune in February.

Icahn also bought into Schaumburg-based cell phone giant Motorola Inc. He now owns 2.9 per cent of Motorola and is running for a seat on the company''s board.

Icahn typically invests in companies he believes are undervalued, and pushes for some sort of change. In MedImmune''s case, that change was a sale. With Motorola, a much bigger company, Icahn initially pushed for a giant stock buyback. But that strategy has been put on hold as Motorola''s cell phone business has deteriorated.

AstraZeneca is paying twice as much relative to sales as Germany''s Merck KGaA spent last year to buy the biotechnology company Serono AG.

The UK drugmaker is paying about 11 times sales for MedImmune. Merck paid 5.8 times sales last year in its $13.3 billion purchase of Serono, Europe''s largest biotech firm.

The biggest holders of MedImmune include Goldman Sachs Group with 11 percent, T. Rowe Price with 7.6 per cent and Fidelity Management with 4.9 per cent.