Gilead to pay $12 Billion for Kite Pharma
US drugmaker Gilead Sciences has agreed to pay almost $12 billion to acquire compatriot Kite Pharma. Through the cash transaction, it will gain access to Car-T, Kite’s cutting-edge chimeric antigen therapy treatment for cancer. Both companies are based in California.
Under the terms of the agreement, planned to close at the end of this year, Gilead will pay $180 per share for Kite, which makes an experimental treatment that re-engineers white blood cells to attack cancer. “The acquisition establishes Gilead as a leader in cellular therapy and provides a foundation from which to drive continued innovation for people with advanced cancers,” said CEO John Milligan.
Analysts called the acquisition price, which represents a 50% premium to Kite’s 30-day volume-weighted average stock price, “hefty,” as the company does not yet have single product on the market. Kite’s Car-T product, AxiCel, is still awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It has already applied for permission to market the drug, however, and is expecting a decision by November.
With the deal, Gilead’s long search for a blockbuster drug appears to have come to fruition. The company, which has faced both praise and criticism for its expensive hepatitis C treatment, costing around $1,000 per pill, has been seen as struggling to diversify its pipeline. Its biggest deal up to now was the 2011 buy of Pharmassset’s antiviral compound ofobuvir for $11 billion.
Analysts said Gilead’s acquisition of Car-T will be regarded as an important validation of the treatment that on the one hand has shown test results termed “remarkable,” but at the same time has raised concerns over reported deaths in clinical trials. Some in the field are said to have expressed doubt that such products can be manufactured at industrial scale.
Gilead’s share price rose on the takeover news, while longtime Kite Pharma investors are also said to be headed for big gains in the value of their shares, in particular that company’s founder and CEO Arie Belldegrun, who may be looking at about $600 million.