UK watchdog probes AstraZeneca's $39B Alexion buy

May 25, 2021

The Competition and Markets Authority — the UK's competition regulator — has launched an anti-competition inquiry into AstraZeneca's $39 billion takeover of Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

The acquisition of the rare-disease focused biopharma, first announced last December, will enable AstraZeneca to launch a dedicated rare disease unit headquartered in Boston. Earlier this month, both Alexion and AstraZeneca shareholders voted in favor of the deal. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission gave the takeover the green light in mid-April.

The CMA's merger inquiry will assess "whether the creation of that situation 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 watchdog says the first phase of the probe should be wrap up July 21, and at that point, the CMA will decide whether or not to start a second, more in-depth appraisal of the deal. While this first phase is largely procedural and a somewhat routine announcement, the decision to launch a phase two investigation will have a greater potential impact.

Provided it clears all regulatory hurdles, the acquisition is expected to close by September 2021.