GSK in weekend talks to buy Human Genome: sources

Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:30pm EDT
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By Ben Hirschler and Soyoung Kim

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline is holding talks this weekend with Human Genome Sciences to agree a deal to acquire it for some $2.6 billion, after pursuing the U.S. biotech company for three months, sources familiar with the situation said on Sunday.

The British pharmaceutical giant could sweeten its previous $13 per share offer for Human Genome with a small bump and a deal may come as soon as Monday, one of the sources said.

An agreement has yet to be reached and the talks could still fall apart, the sources cautioned. They asked not to be identified because the matter is not public.

Human Genome, which rejected GlaxoSmithKline's $2.6 billion offer in April as too low and launched an auction process, has come under pressure from investors to try and strike a deal with the British drugmaker in the absence of any alternative bids.

The U.S. company - an early pioneer of gene-based drug discovery - has set itself a July 16 deadline for finding higher bids, but interest has been limited because GSK, its long-time partner, already has marketing rights to its drugs.

U.S. biotech company Celgene Corp was at one stage considering whether to bid and conducting due diligence, according to a separate source familiar with the matter, but negative analyst and investor reaction when news of those discussions broke deterred the U.S. group.

Without alternative bids, Human Genome shareholders have been pressing the company's management to engage with GSK before July 16 to avoid a share price collapse - and that argument has been a trigger for the weekend discussions.

Human Genome, which has been trying to find another buyer in a separate auction process after GSK took its offer directly to shareholders, reached out first to its hostile suitor to negotiate a deal, according to one of the sources.   Continued...

A GlaxoSmithKline logo is seen outside one of its buildings in west London, February 6, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville