Actelion’s Talks With J&J More Complex?

30.11.2016 -

The splash-making news that Swiss pharmaceuticals and biotechnology firm Actelion is holding preliminary talks with major US healthcare company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) about a potential takeover worth $20 billion may not be as straightforward as the market had assumed. According to sources speaking to the UK business newspaper Financial Times (FT), the Swiss drugmaker is not considering an outright sale but rather drawing up a complex plan to join forces with part of the New Jersey-based healthcare conglomerate while maintaining its independence.

Such a transaction, the FT’s sources said, could lead to the creation of a new, larger biotech venture, in which J&J would be a major shareholder. By the reverse token, they said, the US giant could also offer a cash injection at Actelion’s request to seal the tie-up in one form or another. Actelion is now said to be reviewing its options with advisers, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch. But the newspaper said it is unclear whether J&J, which could afford to swallow an morsel this size whole, would accept the more complicated transaction.

The latest reports suggest, as before, that investment bankers are trying to persuade other Big Pharma players to make an approach to Actelion. The FT noted that the name Roche has repeatedly found its way into the rumors surrounding the Allschwil-headquartered firm, due in part to the fact that its CEO and co-founder, Jean-Paul Clozel, was an executive of the Basel-based player before founding Actelion in 1997. Media reports have also pointed to Sanofi as well as Novartis as potential suitors.

At the same time, market watchers are scratching their heads, trying to discern what Actelion’s game really is. In April of last year, CFO André Muller told the news agency Reuters that the company was “actively looking” for its own deals, and in April of this year Clozel told Bloomberg that “if we want to continue to create shareholder value, the best for us is to remain independent.”

Two of Actelion’s new drugs for treating pulmonary arterial hypertension – Opsumit and Uptravi – are expected to become blockbusters over the next three years, potentially generating more than $4.6 billion in combined sales by 2020, and this should make the company interesting to a number of potential buyers, analysts say.