Sanofi Said Eyeing Actelion Bid

07.12.2016 -

French drugs major Sanofi is weighing a rival offer to Johnson & Johnson’s recent bid for Swiss pharmaceuticals and biotech firm Actelion, the news agency Bloomberg  has reported, citing sources. Bloomberg said Sanofi is working with advisers to consider its options but has not yet definitively decided to make a bid. The company is believed to be treading carefully after losing to Pfizer in its attempt to acquire another pharma-biotech firm, San Francisco-headquartered Medivation, earlier this year.

J&J's original bid for Actelion on November 24 was widely reported, with both firms declining to comment. Reports at the time said a potential takeover could be worth $20 billion. However, unidentified sources speaking to the British business newspaper Financial Times later said the Swiss company was not considering an outright sale but rather a complex plan to join forces with part of the New Jersey-based healthcare conglomerate while maintaining its independence.

Actelion, which has a portfolio of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) treatments, including oral, inhaled, and intravenous, is currently valued at $17 billion. J&J is said to be bent on clinching a deal before Christmas. According to Bloomberg’s sources, the US healthcare giant has meanwhile has increased its bid for an outright takeover beyond $250 per share, which would value Actelion at more than $27 billion. Financial advisers reportedly have been sounding out other potential buyers, including US drugmaker Pfizer and Swiss drugs giant Novartis, to gauge market interest.

Novartis is believed to have mulled an acquisition of Acetlion earlier but decided against a move it regarded as too costly.  The Swiss drugmaker’s CEO, Joe Jimenez, is said to be focused on deals of under $5 billion. Especially in view of the high price tag, some market watchers said acquisition-hungry US drugmakers may also prefer to wait and see if President-elect Donald Trump makes good on his pledge to cut corporate taxes and thus buy companies closer to home.

Bloomberg commented that any deal will hinge on winning over Actelion’s co-founder and CEO, Jean-Paul Clozel, one of the company’s biggest shareholders.  The former CEO, once an executive of Roche, is thought to be keen to hold onto at least part of Actelion.