Actelion says J&J backs off, in talks with another suitor

Swiss biotech company Actelion Ltd yesterday said that US healthcare company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has ended takeover talks and it was in talks with an undisclosed suitor about a "strategic transaction."

''Actelion has taken note of the announcement by J&J and confirms that J&J has withdrawn from the discussions. Actelion is engaged in discussions with another party regarding a possible strategic transaction, the Allschwil, Switzerland-based company said in a statement.

''There can be no certainty at this point that any transaction will result,'' the statement added.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that Sanofi, which is working with advisers, has informally made its interest known to Actelion, but has not made a final decision on whether to proceed with an offer. (See: Sanofi mulls counter bid for Swiss biotech company Actelion) Several media reports had earlier said that Actelion had rejected J&J's initial takeover offer of $26 billion and J&J had significantly increased its offer to $27 billion.

Actelion did not name the suitor, but said it would expect more than the 250 Swiss francs per share offered by J&J.

Actelion, run by its founder and CEO Jean-Paul Clozel, is keen to remain independent but is open to sell if a substantial premium is offered.

Actelion has three main units - consumer, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

Founded in 1997, Actelion is Europe's biggest biotech firm with 30 affiliates around the world, including the US, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan, Switzerland and a number of EU countries.

The company is focused on the discovery, development and commercialisation of innovative drugs for diseases with significant unmet medical needs.

Its portfolio of drugs includes Tracleer, an oral endothelin receptor antagonist, the first oral treatment approved for pulmonary arterial hypertension; Veletri, an intravenous prostacyclin, which removes the need for patients to carry ice packs; Opsumit, an oral endothelin receptor antagonist; Uptravi, the only approved oral, selective IP receptor agonist targeting the prostacyclin pathway in pulmonary arterial hypertension and Ventavis, an inhaled formulation of iloprost.

Actelion was initially financed with venture capital provided through a syndicate including Atlas Venture, Sofinnova and HealthCap.

The Swiss stock exchange-listed company has a market cap of $22 billion and annual revenues of $1.7 billion.

Actelion has recently introduced two new lung medicines Opsumit and Uptravi that are poised to become blockbusters over the next three years. Both drugs are on track to reach approximately $2 billion each in peak annual sales, according to Wall Street analysts.

Both these drugs will reduce dependence on Tracleer since it is expected to face generic competition in 2017. Tracleer currently rakes in nearly $1 billion or around 46 per cent of its annual sales.

The company is also counting on Opsumit and Uptravi, which combined are forecast to bring in nearly 4.5 billion francs in annual sales by 2020, according to Reuters data.