The UK-based firm informally contacted Gilead last month to gauge its interest in a possible tie-up, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details are private.
AstraZeneca didn’t specify terms for any transaction, they said. While Gilead has discussed the idea with advisers, no decisions have been made on how to proceed and the companies aren’t in formal talks, the people added.
AstraZeneca, valued at $140 billion, is the UK’s biggest drugmaker by market capitalisation and has developed treatments for conditions from cancer to cardiovascular disease. Gilead, worth $96 billion, is the creator of a drug that’s received US approval for use with coronavirus patients.
Gilead is not currently interested in selling to or merging with another big pharmaceutical company, preferring instead to focus its deal strategy on partnerships and smaller acquisitions, the people said. A representative for Gilead declined to comment. A spokesman for AstraZeneca said the company doesn’t comment on “rumours or speculation”.
The overtures show how the pharmaceutical industry landscape could shift at a time when drugmakers are racing to find effective treatments for Covid-19. If a deal goes ahead, it would surpass Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $74-billion takeover of Celgene last year as the biggest-ever healthcare acquisition It would also rank among the top 10 M&A transactions of all time. Shares of AstraZeneca have risen about 41% over the past 12 months. Shares of Gilead gained about 19% over the period.