Actelion talking to Sanofi after J&J exit

Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:46am EST
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By Oliver Hirt and Pamela Barbaglia

ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) - Switzerland's Actelion Ltd (ATLN.S: Quote) is in talks with French drugmaker Sanofi (SASY.PA: Quote) about a deal, sources said on Wednesday, after U.S. healthcare group Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N: Quote) abandoned efforts to buy the company.

Two people familiar with the situation said discussions were advanced but a deal was not assured. Actelion's shares ended 9 percent lower on investor concern that J&J's exit underlined the challenges facing any bidder for Europe's biggest biotech group.

One option under consideration is for Sanofi to give shareholders a so-called contingent value right (CVR) on top of cash. The CVR would pay out if certain Actelion drugs live up to commercial expectations.

Sanofi, which also provided a tradable CVR when it bought U.S. rare diseases firm Genzyme for $20 billion in 2011, declined to comment.

Sources said Roche was closely monitoring developments and might yet step in, if talks with Sanofi foundered. A Roche spokesman declined to comment.

Sanofi was trumped in August by Pfizer's (PFE.N: Quote) $14 billion bid for U.S. cancer drug company Medivation and is still eager for deals to broaden its drug line-up.

However, analysts said Sanofi Chief Executive Olivier Brandicourt could ill afford to fail in a second high-profile bid.

Actelion told J&J it was confident it could attract an offer significantly higher than the approximately 250 Swiss francs per share the U.S. company had offered, according to one person familiar with the matter.   Continued...

A general view shows Swiss biotech group Actelion Headquarters in Allschwil, Switzerland, February 17, 2015.    REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo