Pfizer Is Said to Plan Renewed Push for AstraZeneca Deal

Pfizer Inc., the biggest U.S. drugmaker, plans to renew discussions to acquire AstraZeneca Plc, said people familiar with the matter.

The New York-based company may declare its intention to hold takeover talks with AstraZeneca as soon as this week, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the deliberations are private. If it makes a new approach, Pfizer would be attempting one of the largest takeovers in the industry’s history.

Pfizer had approached London-based AstraZeneca three months ago and was rebuffed, people familiar with the matter said last week. The plans were revived in the past few days, said one of the people. AstraZeneca has a market value of 51.5 billion pounds ($86.5 billion).

An acquisition of AstraZeneca would add to the $127 billion of mergers in the pharmaceuticals sector this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. An industrywide recalibration that has been building since 2011 reached a peak last week with a flurry of activity by GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Novartis AG and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.

“We don’t comment on rumor and speculation,” Pfizer spokeswoman Joan Campion said.

New Drugs

The combination of Pfizer and AstraZeneca would create the largest health-care company by revenue, based on trailing 12-month financials, a position it may lose as the U.K. company loses $2.5 billion of sales by 2017, Sam Fazeli, senior analyst for pharmaceuticals at Bloomberg Industries wrote last week.

A deal with AstraZeneca would help Pfizer add early-stage drugs in a field of cancer treatments that use the body’s own immune cells to recognize and attack cancer. AstraZeneca in January announced an agreement with Immunocore Ltd. to develop new treatments that use immune cells, and it also has several of its own immune-based drugs being tested in multiple cancers.

AstraZeneca does not comment on any market speculation or rumor, Emma Chu, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Many of the largest drugmakers face a wave of patent expirations that are cutting billions of dollars from their top lines, forcing them to look for new therapies. Pfizer has reorganized its business over the past three years, shuttering some research projects and emphasizing others. Sales are projected to climb at a compound annual rate of 0.5 percent over the next five years, trailing the median rate of 2.4 percent for its closest peers, estimates compiled by Bloomberg show.

Latest Deals

Valeant this month offered to buy Allergan Inc., maker of the Botox wrinkle treatment, in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $45.7 billion. Novartis AG this month agreed to buy London-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s cancer drugs for as much as $16 billion while selling most of the Swiss company’s vaccines division to Glaxo for $7.1 billion and its animal-health unit to Eli Lilly & Co. for $5.4 billion.

AstraZeneca’s London-listed shares closed at 4,080 pence on April 25 and the stock has gained 14 percent this year. Pfizer closed at $30.75 in the U.S. last week, up 0.4 percent this year. The average premium for pharmaceutical takeovers of at least $1 billion was 30 percent over the past five years, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The Financial Times earlier reported on Pfizer’s renewed interest in AstraZeneca.

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