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AstraZeneca to buy Alexion for $39 billion to expand in immunology

Britain’s AstraZeneca has agreed to buy U.S. drugmaker Alexion Pharmaceuticals for $39 billion in its largest ever deal, diversifying away from its fast-growing cancer business in a bet on rare-disease and immunology drugs.

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Britain’s AstraZeneca has agreed to buy U.S. drugmaker Alexion Pharmaceuticals for $39 billion in its largest ever deal, diversifying away from its fast-growing cancer business in a bet on rare-disease and immunology drugs.

Vials of AstraZeneca’s COVISHIELD, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are seen inside a visual inspection machine inside a lab at the Serum Institute of India, in Pune, India, 30 November 2020. Picture taken November 30, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

The deal comes in a week that AstraZeneca said it was conducting further research to confirm whether its COVID-19 vaccine could be 90% effective, potentially slowing its rollout, and as a rival shot from Pfizer was launched in Britain and approved for use in the United States.

The British company said on Saturday that Alexion shareholders would receive $60 in cash and about $115 worth of equity per share – either in AstraZeneca’s UK-traded ordinary shares or in dollar-denominated American Depositary Shares.

Based on a reference average ADR price of $54.14, that implies a total price of $175 per share. Alexion shares closed at around $121 apiece on Friday.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for us to accelerate our development in immunology, getting into a new segment of disease, a new segment of physicians, and patients we haven’t been able to cover so far,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot told a media call.

Alexion’s best-selling drug is Soliris, used against a range of rare immune-disorders including paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), which causes anaemia and blood clots, and whose revenue rose 3.6% in the first nine months to $3 billion.

AstraZeneca hopes that an improved version of Soliris called Ultomiris has an even larger market potential. It expects more growth from introducing the target’s rare-disease treatments to China and other emerging markets.

The British firm said the boards of both companies had approved the deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021.

AstraZeneca was once seen as leading the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, but has fallen behind Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, as well as Moderna, whose shots have shown greater efficacy in late-stage clinical trials.

With a planned capital increase of about $25 billion after the deal closure, Soriot is looking to harness a strong advance by AstraZeneca stock, driven by the stellar growth of new cancer drugs.

The shares have climbed about 70% through the past three years. A precursor cash call, on a much smaller scale, was a $3.5 billion issue last year to fund the purchase of rights to cancer drug Enhertu from Daiichi Sankyo.

RARE DISEASES

Despite generating billions in cash from treatments such as Soliris, one of the most expensive drugs in the world costing hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient, Alexion shares have struggled in recent years as investors have worried about competition heating up.

That had led it to be seen as a possible bid target.

Hedge fund and activist investor Elliott Management has urged Alexion to seek a buyer and in May spoke out publicly.

The fund, which had held private meetings with the company, said CEO Ludwig Hantson’s go-it-alone approach had failed to gain traction and opposed its plan to buy rivals to diversify its research pipeline.

Elliott first invested in Alexion in 2017 when the share price was only slightly lower than Friday’s close of $120.98. Elliott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

AstraZeneca said it expected the deal to immediately boost core earnings and to deliver pretax synergy gains of around $500 million per year. It also expects around $650 million in one-time cash costs during the three years following completion.

Speaking on an analyst call, 61-year-old Soriot said the deal should put to rest speculation he was on his way out, as he was determined to stay on board to see the strategic benefits of the transaction delivered.

Soriot also told reporters the deal was the result of exclusive talks and no competitive bidder was involved.

AstraZeneca finance chief Marc Dunoyer said a capital increase for the equity component of the transaction would take place on closure of the deal.

On AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, Soriot said it wasn’t yet clear if the company would need results from a U.S. clinical trial before filing for approval with U.S. regulators.

Assuming positive results from that trial, the company should be able to submit the vaccine to U.S. regulators within the next six weeks, he added.

Additional reporting by Rebecca Spalding, Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Aishwarya NairEditing by Mark Potter and David Holmes

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-alexion-pharms-m-a-astrazeneca/astrazeneca-to-acquire-alexion-in-39-billion-deal-idUSKBN28M0GZ

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Reuters

Disneyland Paris to re-open on June 17

Disneyland Paris (DIS.N) said on Monday that it would re-open on June 17, as French bars, restaurants and tourism sites gradually resume their operations after having been shut due to COVID-19 sanitary restrictions.

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The logo of Disneyland Paris is seen in Marne-la-Vallee, near Paris, as the theme park prepares to reopen its doors to the public following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Disneyland Paris (DIS.N) said on Monday that it would re-open on June 17, as French bars, restaurants and tourism sites gradually resume their operations after having been shut due to COVID-19 sanitary restrictions.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/disneyland-paris-re-open-june-17-2021-05-17/

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Chip shortage to hit about 100,000 Mazda vehicles in 2021

Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) said on Friday it expects a semiconductor crunch to affect around 100,000 of the Japanese automaker’s vehicles globally during the fiscal year.

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The logo of Mazda is pictured at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen

Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) said on Friday it expects a semiconductor crunch to affect around 100,000 of the Japanese automaker’s vehicles globally during the fiscal year.

However, Mazda will fully leverage available inventory to minimize the hit to about 70,000 wholesale units, it said in a statement.

The worldwide shift to remote work and learning during the pandemic had boosted demand for laptops and other gadgets, exacerbating a global chip shortage.

The shortfall will cost automakers $110 billion in lost revenues this year, up from a prior estimate of $61 billion, consulting firm AlixPartners said, forecasting the crisis will hit the production of 3.9 million vehicles. read more

Automobiles depend on chips for everything from computer management of engines for better fuel economy to driver-assistance features such as emergency braking.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The worldwide shift to remote work and learning during the pandemic had boosted demand for laptops and other gadgets, exacerbating a global chip shortage.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/chip-shortage-hit-about-100000-mazda-vehicles-2021-2021-05-14/

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England to ease COVID restrictions further on May 17

England will press ahead with plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions further on May 17, including allowing people to meet indoors, thanks to favourable data on infections and vaccines, the government said on Sunday.

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Visitors to Greenwich Park sit and look towards Canary Wharf financial district as lockdown restrictions are eased amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in London, Britain, April 25, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

England will press ahead with plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions further on May 17, including allowing people to meet indoors, thanks to favourable data on infections and vaccines, the government said on Sunday.

The country is in the process of gradually lifting its latest lockdown over a period of months, in line with a four-step plan unveiled in February.

Under Step 3 of the plan, as outlined when it was first announced, people will be allowed to meet up indoors for the first time in months, in groups of up to six people or two full households together.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to host customers indoors, also for the first time in months and subject to certain rules. Other indoor entertainment, hospitality and sports venues will also be able to resume activity.

Johnson’s Downing Street office said the latest data on COVID vaccinations, on infections, hospitalisations and deaths, and on the risk posed by new variants had been taken into account in deciding to move forward with Step 3.

“The data reflects what we already knew – we are not going to let this virus beat us,” Johnson said, according to a Downing Street statement.

“The roadmap remains on track, our successful vaccination programme continues – more than two thirds of adults in the UK have now had the first vaccine – and we can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly.”

Johnson was due to provide further details at a news conference on Monday.

Semi-autonomous administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own separate timetables for easing COVID restrictions.

The United Kingdom has lost more than 127,000 people to COVID-19. It experienced a devastating second wave that peaked in late January, but since then the numbers of new cases and deaths have plummeted. read more

On Sunday, a total of 1,770 new cases and two new deaths were recorded across the United Kingdom. That contrasts with the situation during the second wave, when the daily number of new cases peaked at over 80,000 while the daily death toll was above 1,300 on the worst day.

There are also expected to be significant changes for the arts and events sectors under Step 3, with both indoor and outdoor venues allowed to host far greater numbers of people than for many months.

The government had already confirmed last week that international travel would be allowed to resume on May 17, although still with severe restrictions in place except for a handful of countries. read more

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/england-ease-covid-restrictions-further-may-17-2021-05-09/

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