Sanofi mulls counter bid for Swiss biotech company Actelion

French drug giant Sanofi SA is mulling to table a counter offer for Swiss biotech company Actelion, rivaling an offer made by US healthcare company Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Bloomberg yesterday reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Sanofi, which is working with advisers as it weighs its options, has informally made its interest known to Actelion, but has not made a final decision on whether to proceed with an offer, the report said.

Actelion advisers have also reached out to other drugmakers including Switzerland's Roche Holding AG and Pfizer Inc, the report added.

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, 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, based in Allschwil, Switzerland, has three main units - consumer, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

Founded in 1997, Actelion is Europe's biggest biotech firm having 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 orally available 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 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.