J&J and Actelion Said Talking to Swiss Regulators

09.01.2017 -

Actelion and Johnson & Johnson may be edging closer to a deal that would give the US healthcare giant at least a major chunk of the Swiss biotech firm, according to the Zurich newspaper Tagesanzeiger.

The paper said the two companies are currently speaking to Swiss regulators about their plan for splitting Actelion into an R&D and a mature products units, the former majority owned by the family of Actelion founder and CEO Jean-Paul Clozel. His veto is thought to be behind J&J’s withdrawal from the initial negotiations.

Clozel and his wife Martine are reportedly keen to strike a deal along the lines of Roche’s takeover of Genentech. The entrepreneur is said to fear that his company in future could serve only as a sales generator for a huge multinational company, which in time might cut R&D spending or even phase out in-house research.

Under the plan, J&J would acquire Acetelion’s established drugs portfolio, including the pulmonary arterial hypertension treatments Tracleer, Opsumit and Uptravi, which account for the lion’s share of the Swiss company’s sales revenue. The deal would also include production facilities, marketing and distribution activities and the employees in these fields, along with the relevant research activities.

As reported earlier, J&J would pay Actelion about $260 cash per share for its assets, valuing the intact company at $28 billion. The Swiss biotech firm with annual sales of more than 2 billion Swiss francs employs more than 2,500 people. The US healthcare firm, with a minority shareholding in the research arm, is said to be prepared to fund R&D to the tune of $1-2 billion over several years in the interest of bringing more pipeline products to the market.

Up to now, reports say Clozel has been loath to split the company. In earlier failed deals, he deflected an $18.9 billion bid from Shire and outmaneuvered a 2011 takeover attempt by activist hedge fund Elliott Advisors. J&J is said to be happy with the agreed split, especially as its competitors are breathing down its neck with ready-to-launch biosimilars and it desperately needs new products.