Astra sells rights as it focuses on new drugs

Astrazeneca has offloaded the European commercial rights to several heart medicines as it focuses on bringing new products to the market.

The FTSE 100-listed company struck a licensing agreement for Seloken and an associated medicine, Logimax, with the Italian drugmaker Recordati for $300 million plus sales-related royalties, initially a double-digit percentage.

Under the deal for the drugs, which treat hypertension, angina and heart failure, Astrazeneca will manufacture and supply the medicines to Recordati and retain the commercial rights outside Europe. Seloken and Logimax generated sales of $717 million last year, of which $110 million were in Europe. Brazil and China are other big markets for the products.

Mark Mallon, executive vice-president for global product and portfolio strategy at Astrazeneca, said that the agreement allowed the company to concentrate resources on bringing new medicines to patients. “Recordati’s expertise in cardiovascular disease and established European salesforce will help to expand the commercial potential of the Seloken brands,” he said.

Astrazeneca has been selling the rights to non-core drugs in order to invest in its research and development and drugs pipeline.

The Cambridge-based company struck a $230 million deal in March with Circassia Pharmaceuticals, selling the US commercial rights to two lung drugs to the biotech group backed by Neil Woodford, the fund manager.

Sales generated from externalisation revenue at Astrazeneca, which includes royalty and milestone payments, rose to almost $1.7 billion in 2016, about 7.3 per cent of group turnover.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of Astrazeneca since October 2012, has called 2017 a pivotal year for the company as it seeks to bring eagerly anticipated late-stage drugs to the market and turn around sales.

He has been under pressure to deliver on his strategy after Astrazeneca rebuffed a politically contentious £55-a-share takeover approach from Pfizer, the US drugs company, three years ago.

The board was given a boost this month when Imfinzi, an important lung cancer drug, recorded encouraging results, sending Astrazeneca shares up by almost 10 per cent.

The results came shortly after the US Food and Drug Administration granted Imfinzi its first approval for use against advanced bladder cancer.

Astrazeneca suffered a shareholder revolt over executive pay at its annual shareholder meeting last month and posted a fall in first-quarter sales and profits.

Shares have risen by more than a fifth in the past six months, reflecting increased investor confidence in the company’s pipeline. They rose in early trading to close 11p up at £51.30 on the London Stock Exchange.