AstraZeneca ramps up for M&A upsurge

Pharmaceuticals leader AstraZeneca is to ramp up its in-house transactional capability in preparation for a sharp increase in M&A work.

AstraZeneca company secretary and solicitor Graeme Musker plans to bulk up his 25-strong UK legal team to cope with the demand for acquisition and licensing advice.

The company wants to boost its drug pipeline by buying up smaller life sciences operations following the launch of its externalisation strategy.
Musker said: “I think we’re ready to increase numbers to deal with externalisation, especially in the licensing and acquisition area. We have to control costs and budgets, but the management is aware we have to step up to this challenge.”

Musker said he had no set limit in mind for the number of new recruits. “We have to judge it against the workflow coming in, which is very difficult to judge accurately. What we don’t want is to get people in and then see the workflow dry up,” he said.

AstraZeneca’s main relationship firms for corporate activity – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith, Linklaters and Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw – still stand to gain from an M&A surge despite the new recruits.

AstraZeneca’s legal department has been kept busy this month by large-scale manufacturing job cuts and a report from the Office of Fair Trading urging an overhaul on drug prices.

The company will cut 3,000 jobs worldwide and is using local employment firms to stay within labour law guidelines.

“In particular in Europe we have two specialist employment lawyers that take local advice where they need it. They make sure of observing local laws,” said Musker.