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AstraZeneca CFO to Leave

Zacks Equity Research

AstraZeneca (AZN) recently announced that its Chief Financial Officer (:CFO) and Executive Director, Simon Lowth, will leave the company at the end of Oct 2013. Lowth will be joining BG Group (BRGYY) as CFO in November.

We remind investors that this is the second major change in AstraZeneca’s management in the last few quarters. In Aug 2012, Pascal Soriot was recruited as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company. After taking control of the company, Soriot has laid emphasis on bolstering AstraZeneca’s pipeline.

For this purpose, the company is pursuing bolt-on acquisitions and small deals. AstraZeneca has entered into a number of acquisitions in the last few months.

In addition to acquisitions, the company is targeting co-development deals. Agreements with Karolinska Institutet (to conduct preclinical and clinical trials for candidates targeting cardiovascular and metabolic diseases), Moderna Therapeutics (to develop RNA therapeutics for the treatment of serious cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases and cancer), NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. (to develop candidates for type II diabetes and obesity) and BIND Therapeutics (for the development and commercialization of cancer nanomedicine, Accurin) are efforts in this direction.

At present the company is facing several issues. The generic competition that AstraZeneca is currently facing or expects to face for its various drugs has put significant pressure on the company. Some of the key products like Arimidex and Seroquel are already facing generic competition in the US, while Nexium and Crestor generics are expected to enter the US market in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

AstraZeneca carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Companies that currently look well-positioned include Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) and Santarus, Inc. (SNTS). While Jazz is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock, Santarus carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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