AstraZeneca scores an unexpected win.
Photograph by Andrew Yates AFP—Getty Images
By Laura Lorenzetti
November 6, 2015

Astrazeneca, the UK’s second-largest drugmaker, agreed to buy ZS Pharma for $2.7 billion in cash, sweeping the company from Swiss rival Actelion in its bid for a valuable treatment for a deadly blood condition known as hyperkalaemia.

ZS Pharma (ZSPH), a biopharmaceutical company based in San Mateo, Calif., is known for its proprietary ion-trap technology that used in treatments for high potassium levels, i.e. hyperkalaemia, usually connected to chronic kidney disease and chronic heart failure. The company, which has no revenue yet, has a compound using this technology under regulatory review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and plans to submit reviews to European authorities by the end of the year. Once it’s approved and hits the market, the drug, known as ZS-9, is expected to reach global peak year sales of more than $1 billion, according to Astrazeneca.

The purchase gives Astrazeneca (AZN) a valuable, high-potential drug at a time when its losing patent protection on some of its blockbusters, including Nexium antacid and high cholesterol treatment Crestor. CEO Pascal Soriot also noted in a statement that “this acquisition complements our strategic focus on cardiovascular and metabolic disease by adding a potential best-in-class treatment to our portfolio of innovative medicines.”

Astrazeneca will pay $90 a share, a 42% premium over yesterday’s closing price. ZS Pharma agreed to the deal, pushing out Actelion which said in September that it had been talking with the biotech company.

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