The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority said on Tuesday it was opening a consultation on the $39 billion planned takeover of U.S. drug company Alexion Pharmaceuticals, to determine whether it would adversely affect competition.
- The watchdog is trying to assess whether the merger “may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.”
- The CMA said in a release that it was opening a consultation and inviting comments with the aim of reaching a preliminary decision by a tentative deadline of July 1.
U.K.–Swedish pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca
one of the largest manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines, announced in December an agreement to acquire Alexion
and its portfolio of rare-disease drugs, such as best-selling Soliris, in a bid to diversify from its main cancer drug business and complement its research effort.
- The deal, which would be financed by a $25 billion capital increase once it is concluded, was approved by AstraZeneca’s shareholders two weeks ago. It has already been approved by U.S. and Canadian authorities.
- An AstraZeneca spokesperson said Tuesday that the opening of the CMA consultation was an “important step towards closing of the proposed acquisition,” which the group expects to happen in the third quarter of this year.
The outlook. The CMA decision is a procedural, quasi-routine announcement that the consultation of “interested parties” is formally open. The crucial decision will come in two months’ time, when the watchdog will announce whether it deems the merger worthy of a so-called Phase 2 investigation, a more in-depth probe of its competition impact.