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Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical has struck a £46bn ($62 billion) deal to acquire Irish rival Shire as part of its strategy to expand its global footprint.

Takeda’s acquisition of UK-listed Shire, a global specialty biopharmaceutical firm, would be the biggest in a wave of deals rolling through the pharmaceutical industry. If approved by shareholders, it will be Takeda’s biggest acquisition and Japan’s biggest overseas takeover to date. Takeda is currently the largest pharmaceutical company in Japan and Asia, and a top 15 global pharmaceutical company. The merged company would put it in the global top 10.

In addition to Takeda’s ambition to grow in new markets, its interest in Shire stems from a goal to strengthen its cancer, stomach and brain drug portfolios. The company needs lucrative new therapies, as it has few late-stage experimental drugs in its pipeline. With patents due to expire and drug pricing pressures in the domestic market, Takeda is also seeking growth in rare-disease treatments, which offer higher profit margins.

Takeda Chief Executive Christophe Weber, a French national, said, “Shire’s highly complementary product portfolio and pipeline, as well as experienced employees, will accelerate our transformation for a stronger Takeda. Together, we will be a leader in providing targeted treatments in gastroenterology, neuroscience, oncology, rare diseases and plasma-derived therapies." Appointed in 2015, Weber is Takeda’s first non-Japanese CEO in its 237-year history, and one of few international executives to lead a Japanese company.

The agreement ends a protracted pursuit, with Takeda making five different offers for Shire since late March, according to the BBC. Shire chairwoman Susan Kilsby said, “We firmly believe that this combination recognises the strong growth potential of our leading products and innovative pipeline and is in the best interests of our shareholders, our patients and the communities we serve.”

Expanding its overall presence in the global pharmaceutical industry through the merger will enable Takeda to make its products available worldwide, and it hopes, use this revenue to finance R&D. “The two combined create a rich pipeline in all stages – early and late stage, which is very important”, Weber said. “We are in a good momentum and in a strong position.”

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