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Shire makes £12 billion move for Actelion

Published on 08/06/15 at 09:34am
Actelion image

Not a week goes by without a big pharma merger story, and now it’s the turn of Dublin-headquartered Shire that is throwing its £12 billion hat into the ring for Swiss firm Actelion.

The Sunday Times reported that the Irish maker of hyperactivity treatments made an informal approach to Actelion several weeks ago, but that the Swiss company has knocked-back its offer of £12.4 billion, which is a 20% premium to its stock market worth. 

Based near Basel Actelion specialises in rare disease treatments such as pulmonary arterial hypertension – it reported sales of £1.4 billion and a net profit of £414m in 2014. 

Shire was itself down be taken over by US company AbbVie last year – but the deal collapsed when the US changing its tax laws.

The Humira manufacturer had planned to buy Shire for an estimated £32 billion ($52 billion), then move the combined company’s legal address to the UK in order to reduce its tax bill and access cash ‘trapped’ overseas.

Shire then set about making acquisitions of its own, in January it spent $5.2 billion on rare-disease firm NPS Pharma – with Shire chief executive Flemming Ornskov saying this is a significant step in advancing its strategy towards ‘becoming the leading biotech company’. 

Just a month later it bought Meritage Pharma that specialises in gastrointestinal and skin diseases for $70 million.

The move gave Shire the rights to develop and own Meritage’s oral budesonide suspension treatment, for adolescents and adults with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) – a rare, chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal disease.

Shire acquired the right to buy the Californian company via its $4.2 billion 2013 deal to buy US-based rare disease firm ViroPharma.

As yet no spokesperson from Shire or Actelion are willing to comment on the rumours concerning this potentially significant takeover. 

Brett Wells

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