UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca has approached rival firm Gilead Sciences about a potential merger, people familiar with the matter said, Bloomberg News reported.
The potential deal would be the biggest healthcare deal ever, Bloomberg added.
AstraZeneca approached Gilead last month regarding a potential merger, the people told Bloomberg, but the UK firm did not specify any terms for the transaction.
AstraZeneca, valued at $140 billion, is the UK’s biggest drugmaker by market capitalization and has developed treatments for conditions from cancer to cardiovascular disease. Gilead, worth $96 billion at Friday’s close, is the creator of remdesivir, a drug that’s received US approval for use with coronavirus patients.
Gilead is not currently interested in selling to or merging with another big pharmaceutical company, preferring instead to focus its deal strategy on partnerships and smaller acquisitions, the people said, Bloomberg reported.
Gilead’s share price has climbed 18 percent this year as its antiviral drug for COVID-19, remdesivir, worked its way through clinical trials. The stock is still more than a third lower than its 2015 highs. The Foster City, California-based company has seen a steady decline in sales in its hepatitis C franchise and is trying to reinvigorate its drug-development pipeline.
Health-care dealmaking has been a rare bright spot as the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns have doused the market for mergers and acquisitions. Global M&A volumes are down about 45 percent this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and announced deals have been falling apart at a steady pace.
Excluding minority investments, dealmaking in April and May barely topped $100 billion in total, the data show, the lowest two-month period in at least 22 years.
AstraZeneca is no stranger to large-scale, politically sensitive mergers and acquisitions. In 2014 it fended off a $117 billion approach from Pfizer Inc., a deal that attracted attention from US lawmakers as it would have allowed New York-based Pfizer to lower its tax bill by redomiciling in the UK.
Its shares are up 11 percent since the start of the year, boosted by positive data from trials of its blockbuster lung cancer drug Tagrisso.