AZ sells stake in Moderna for more than $1billion

AstraZeneca has sold its stake in Moderna for more than $1 billion as the US biotech’s shares soared in value following its coronavirus vaccine breakthrough.

The UK-based pharma has disposed of its 7.7% holding in the mRNA technology pioneer, The Times reported (behind paywall).

Moderna was among the first companies to get a COVID-19 vaccine approved and has been selling it at a profit, even though the project was kick-started with around $1.5 billion in US government funding.

Meanwhile, AZ has been supplying its COVID-19 vaccine at cost during the pandemic and the $1.2 billion windfall will be a boost to the UK pharma’s coffers during a busy time.

AZ has a rich development pipeline and its busy completing its largest acquisition, the $39 billion purchase of rare diseases specialist Alexion.

Moderna only launched on the stock market at the beginning of 2018 at a price of $23 per share, peaking at more than $189 last month.

At the time of its record-breaking $604m IPO Moderna was worth around $7.5 billion – but at today’s share prices it is worth more than $61 billion thanks mainly to its success developing a coronavirus vaccine.

The Times said it is not clear over what period the pharma sold its full holding in Moderna and suggested that given the surge in the biotech’s share price over the last year, AZ could have accrued a larger profit by retaining its stake.

Moderna said it expects its vaccine to generate sales of $18.4 billion this year, which is significantly higher than market expectations.

It’s also more than the revenue forecasts for Pfizer’s rival vaccine, predicted to generate sales of around $15 billion.

AstraZeneca became the second largest investor in Moderna after working with the US biotech since 2013 on mRNA therapeutics for cancer, metabolic and renal diseases.

The collaboration was expanded to include further work in oncology in 2016, combining expertise from AZ’s MedImmune biologics arm with that of the US biotech.

A spokesperson for AZ declined to comment but noted that the disposal of the Moderna stake was mentioned in the company’s latest annual report.

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