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AstraZeneca could buy Bristol stake in diabetes JV: analyst

LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca may seek to increase its stake in a diabetes joint venture with Bristol-Myers Squibb, following a decision by the U.S. firm to exit diabetes drug research, according to Citi.

Bristol said on Thursday it would no longer conduct research to discover new drugs for diabetes, hepatitis C and neuroscience, but will increase spending on medicines that harness the immune system to fight cancer.

That refocusing suggests Bristol could seek to sell its share in the non-U.S. part of the diabetes joint venture to its partner AstraZeneca, Citi analyst Andrew Baum said in a note on Friday.

Citi estimated Bristol's stake in the business outside the United States could be worth $4 billion to $6 billion and the acquisition would boost AstraZeneca's earnings per share by between 1 percent and 5 percent over the medium term.

A spokeswoman for AstraZeneca, Britain's second biggest drugmaker, said the company did not comment on speculation.

The Bristol-AstraZeneca diabetes joint venture includes the oral medicines Onglyza, Kombiglyze and Forxiga, as well as the injectable treatments Bydureon and Byetta.

Demand for many of these products has been relatively slow to build up and Forxiga was rejected by U.S. regulators in 2012.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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