Astra is certainly willing to splash the cash - the Ardea approach follows an agreement earlier this month to share the risk with biotechnology Amgen on developing drugs to treat inflammatory diseases. But the company's bosses can still expect a rough ride from its shareholders over its direction and performance.
At least Astra's bid looks like being successful; two other multi-billion dollar pharma deals currently in circulation have failed to make much headway. For example, rival GlaxoSmithKline is currently stuck in a stand-off with Human Genome Sciences (HGS) after its initial $2.6bn takeover bid was rejected out of hand.
But then again, GSK and Roche can both afford to bide their time when it comes finding deals that fit and will generate revenue. Astra does not have that luxury - and buying Ardea will not confer it. The approval of Ardea's primary product, RDEA594, is not expected before 2014 at the earliest, by which time several of Astra's current blockbuster drugs will have come off patent.
The impact of looming patent expiries is already being felt. The first quarter were unexpectedly bearish with a 11 per cent fall in core profits to $2.89bn (£1.8bn), with most of the fall due to the expiry of patents. By contrast, GSK reported on Wednesday that first-quarter sales climbed by 2 per cent, on the back of demand from emerging markets.
AstraZeneca's patent problems are well known - but they're also reflected in a PE ratio of just seven, while prodigious cash flow means its inflation-busting dividend remains well covered, making it a reasonable holding for income investors. Buy at 2,708p.
visible-status-Standard story-url-AstraZeneca GlaxoSmithKline analysis 24 Apr 2012.xml