UPDATED: AstraZeneca looks at selling U.S. campus to raise cash

AstraZeneca ($AZN) has raised billions of dollars in short-term cash by pawning off the rights to a growing list of its drugs that it says are not important for its long-term future. Pfizer ($PFE) just this week agreed to pay $1.5 billion for AstraZeneca’s antibiotics portfolio. But the U.K. drugmaker is trying a new twist on its asset sales practice, putting its U.S. headquarters in Delaware up for sale with plans to lease it back to pick up some money.

The campus in Fairfax, DE, went on the market this week, Delawareonline reported. An AstraZeneca spokesperson told the news service that the drugmaker is looking at a number of options, including redeveloping the site.

In an emailed statement today, AstraZeneca spokeswoman Abigail Bozarth said: "In May, we said we would be evaluating whether it made most sense to keep our North America Commercial Headquarters at the current location in Wilmington, or to move to a new location nearby."

"This is a continuation of the evaluations currently underway and we remain committed to keeping our North America commercial headquarters in Delaware. While no decisions have been made at this point, we continue to assess all options, one of which is the redevelopment of our current site. In order to fully explore this possibility, AstraZeneca will be soliciting bids from real estate developers in the coming months, and that requires us putting the site on the market for sale," Bozarth said. 

The move comes as AstraZeneca is in the midst of a variety of cost-cutting moves and as CEO Pascal Soriot works feverishly to build up the drugmaker’s top and bottom lines. The company in April announced it intended to make $1.1 billion in cost cuts and followed that up in May by whacking the jobs of about 1,600 U.S. contract sales reps.

The company, following an industry trend, also has been shedding products that fall outside the therapeutic fields in which it has the most potential, picking up much needed cash along the way.

Pfizer is buying 5 antibiotics, including the rights to two still under development. In June, AstraZeneca agreed to sell the U.S. rights to 7 drugs to South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare for up to $770 million. That deal followed many others. It sold a partnership for $500 million to Eli Lilly ($LLY) on an Alzheimer's drug, and also entered into a co-promotion deal on Movantik, its treatment for opioid-induced constipation, with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo, getting another $200 million in the process.

While it is unclear how much the real estate deal might bring, property experts told the publication that a sale for redeveloping the campus might actually yield a substantial return, given its location and how much underutilized space there is. AstraZeneca has actually taken several buildings down on the site, following an earlier round of cost-cutting and layoffs.

- read the Delawareonline report

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