UPDATE 2-AstraZeneca CEO sees no need for large acquisition

Fri Mar 27, 2009 3:56pm EDT

* AstraZeneca CEO may seek to add products to pipeline

* Strategy won't shift if any near-term products fail

* "Scale does not necessarily equal innovation" - Brennan

By Lisa Richwine

WASHINGTON, March 27 (Reuters) - Drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) (AZN.N) does not need to follow rivals with a large acquisition but may try to add products to its pipeline, the company's chief executive said on Friday.

AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan said he did not see his company joining a recent trend of major consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry.

"I don't believe we need to engage in a large transaction," Brennan told reporters when asked about his company's merger strategy.

Brennan touted six near-term new product opportunities for the company and said he would "not necessarily" shift his strategy if any of the drugs failed.

He said he "would be interested in acquiring things to enhance our pipeline," but they would be "on the smaller side, not on the larger side."

Major drug company mergers are underway in the United States with Merck & Co Inc's (MRK.N) move to buy Schering-Plough Corp SGP.N for $41 billion just six weeks after Pfizer Inc's (PFE.N) $68 billion purchase of Wyeth WYE.N.

European companies including AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK.L) and Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) have shown no signs of joining in.

Companies on both sides of the Atlantic face slowing drug sales, looming patent expirations and sliding prices as politicians ratchet up pressure on the industry.

AstraZeneca itself is a perennial rumored takeover target but analysts say uncertainty over patent expirations on key cholesterol drug Crestor may dissuade buyers.

Brennan said AstraZeneca was well-positioned with six new products expected to be under consideration by U.S. regulators this year, including blood-thinner Brilinta and lung cancer drug Zactima.

"I don't believe we're missing any technology right now," Brennan said when asked about potential product acquisitions or licensing deals.

Brennan said smaller companies still were able to compete against drug giants and the recent mergers had not changed the environment.

"Scale does not necessarily equal innovation," he said. (Reporting by Lisa Richwine; editing by John Wallace and Carol Bishopric)

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