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AstraZeneca, the UK's largest pharmaceuticals firm, approached its heavyweight US competitor Gilead to discuss a merger, according to Bloomberg.

AstraZeneca contacted Gilead in May but "didn't specify terms for any transaction," Bloomberg said, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Discussions with advisers are reportedly underway at Gilead, but the companies aren't in formal talks, they said.

Gilead is not interested in merging with a rival, Bloomberg said, preferring to focus on smaller acquisitions.

As of Friday, AstraZeneca was worth $141 billion (R2.4 trillion) and Gilead $96 billion (R1.6 trillion). If a merger went ahead it would be the largest ever in the industry.

AstraZeneca is currently partnering with the Oxford Vaccine Group to help roll out an inoculation against the coronavirus, if a product is approved.

Gilead is not working on a vaccine, and in May ceased work on two potential antiviral treatments for COVID-19.

Business Insider contacted both firms for comment but is yet to receive a response.

AstraZeneca told Bloomberg the company doesn't comment on "rumours or speculation."

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