Swiss drugmaker Roche eyes Alexion Pharmaceuticals

Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG is seeking financing for buying Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc, Bloomberg yesterday reported, citing unnamed sources.

The news sent Nasdaq-listed Alexion shares surging yesterday at one point by more than 23 per cent and closed at $115, nearly 13 per cent higher to Thursday close of $101.51.

The report said that Roche has been in touch with Connecticut-based Alexion for several months, although analysts said that it's not the first time that Roche has been reported to be eying Alexion, since similar reports had appeared last month as well.

With a market cap of $22.3 billion, Alexion, a biopharmaceutical products maker develops life-transforming therapeutic drugs.

It flagship drug is Soliris, which is used to treat patients with a rare blood disease known as paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH), a blood disorder; and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS), a genetic disease that can progressively damage vital organs, leading to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and death.

Soliris is the company's sole marketed drug and has been approved for use in more than 40 countries as a treatment for patients with PNH, and in the US and the European Union for the treatment for patients with aHUS.

But the drug is among the expensive therapies and cost patients as much as $400,000 a year, according to Bloomberg.

Alexion posted net income of $255 million in 2012 on revenue of $1.1 billion.

A potential buyout of Alexion would be the Swiss healthcare giant's biggest acquisition after it bought the remaining of Genentech Inc in 2009 for $47 billion. (See: Roche clinches Genentech deal for $47 billion)

But Roche, the world's largest maker of cancer medicines, last year abandoned its three-month long $51 a share or $6.7-billion hostile pursuit of Illumina Inc after the board of the US-based gene sequencing company repeatedly rejected as being too low.

Illumina, based in California, closed yesterday at $74.90, giving it a market value of $9.3 billion.

Alexion is the latest biotechnology company to become a takeover target. Last month Amgen Inc launched a hostile $10 billion cash bid for Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc, but the maker of cancer drugs Nexavar and Kyprolis, rejected the offer as being too low.