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AstraZeneca 'desperate' to buy drugs it can't build?

UK-based AstraZeneca, whose US headquarters is in suburban Philadelphia, trades at a discount as it struggles to bring its many new treatments to market while fighting generic competitors: report

AstraZeneca Plc, based in London with North American offices on US 202 in Fairfax, Del., is "the most exposed European drugmaker to generic competition," writes Bloomberg here.

The company, which has been cutting staff around the world,  "is looking for new medicines as it struggles to beat a sales slump that even its most productive year of development can't cure." E.g., AstraZeneca "faces cheaper copies of seven drugs by 2014, including its three biggest sellers: Nexium for ulcers, antipsychotic Seroquel and Crestor for cholesterol.

"Bank of America Corp. analyst Graham Parry downgraded the stock in April to 'underperform,' citing a pipeline that isn't robust enough to fill the looming sales gap," despite promising cholesterol treatments. "AstraZeneca trades at about 8.8 times reported earnings, below the 12.7 times for the Bloomberg Europe Pharmaceutical Index," raising speculation the company will try to buy more market-ready drugs.

One investor quoted in the story worries the company will pay premium prices for "desperation" acquisitions. But Bloomberg says CEO "David Brennan, who bought U.S. vaccine maker MedImmune Inc. for $15.2 billion in 2007, is now seeking smaller deals... He wants to expand in areas including diabetes, pain, infection and cancer" while waiting for potential diabetes "megablockbuster" dapagliflozin, in development with Bristol-Meyers, to hit the market.