By Mark Maurer 

AstraZeneca PLC appointed an Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. executive as its new finance chief as the Covid-19 vaccine maker works to complete the acquisition of the company.

The Cambridge, U.K.-based pharmaceutical giant on Friday said Aradhana Sarin, currently executive vice president and chief financial officer of Alexion, would succeed current CFO Marc Dunoyer.

Mr. Dunoyer, who has been in his role for more than seven years, is set to become Alexion's chief executive as well as chief strategy officer of AstraZeneca after the acquisition, AstraZeneca said.

AstraZeneca in December agreed to acquire Boston-based Alexion for $39 billion in cash and stock to expand its offering of treatments for rare diseases, including Soliris, which treats a rare blood disorder. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter, depending on regulatory approvals. Friday's executive moves are conditional upon completion of the deal and will be effective on Aug. 1 or the date of closing, whichever will be later, AstraZeneca said.

AstraZeneca last month launched a $7 billion bond offering in six tranches, which will be used to fund part of the acquisition of Alexion. The deal is forecast to generate strong cash flows that could help repay the debt fairly quickly, analysts said.

Ms. Sarin will likely focus on leading acquisitions of companies specializing in treatments for rare diseases or oncology, in an effort to expand AstraZeneca's capabilities and diversify its sources of revenue, said Damien Conover, director of healthcare equity research at Morningstar Inc.'s research division.

Ms. Sarin also would have to manage costs associated with the continuing rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine. AstraZeneca in April said sales of its vaccine, which it promised to sell initially without taking a profit, haven't kept up with its costs. The vaccine was temporarily suspended in several countries because of concerns over blood-clotting problems which were reported by a small percentage of people after they were inoculated.

The company booked $275 million in revenue for the quarter ended March 31 from sales of its Covid-19 vaccine, developed in partnership with the University of Oxford. The company's core gross profit margins fell 3 percentage points in the latest quarter, to 74.6%, in part because of vaccine costs.

AstraZeneca and its manufacturing partners have supplied more than 300 million vaccine doses globally so far. While its vaccine has been made and stockpiled in the U.S., the company hasn't obtained authorization for use by the federal Food and Drug Administration yet.

AstraZeneca likely hired Ms. Sarin for her background in investment banking and operational skills, Mr. Conover said. Before joining Alexion in 2017, Ms. Sarin served as managing director at Citigroup Inc. and UBS Group AG.

Alexion will likely remain a largely independent unit for treating rare diseases, Mr. Conover said, adding that the integration shouldn't be difficult. "It really doesn't have a lot of synergy with the rest of the company and there's not a lot of cost cutting that's going to happen with this," he said.

Mr. Dunoyer's departure from his current role raises questions around the potential exit of Chief Executive Pascal Soriot, said Eric Le Berrigaud, a managing partner at investment bank Bryan, Garnier & Co. "We cannot but mention that Soriot and Dunoyer are often seen as a duo. The two are very close," he said.

AstraZeneca declined to comment beyond its release.

--Adria Calatayud contributed to this article.

Write to Mark Maurer at mark.maurer@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 04, 2021 16:09 ET (20:09 GMT)

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