Going Down: Zeneca

ZENECA GROUP said it completed its $40bn (pounds 24.8bn) takeover of Sweden's Astra, creating the world's biggest drugmaker, after Astra shareholders voted to approve its all-share offer. The shares fell more than 8 per cent.

The enlarged company leapfrogs Novartis and Merck & Co in size, with 1998 drug sales of $10.68bn. Rivals in the $300 billion drug industry are joining forces at a record pace to boost their pipelines of new drugs and slash costs.

The company now has to succeed in cutting 11 per cent of its workforce, integrating two different cultures and overcoming the expiration of patents on its best-selling drugs.