Sanofi to buy Belgian biotech company Ablynx for $4.8 bn

French drug giant Sanofi today struck a deal to buy Belgian biotech company Ablynx for $4.8 billion (€3.9 billion), in a bid to add a prized experimental drug for a rare blood disorder to its portfolio.

The deal comes after Ablynx rejected a €2.6-billion unsolicited offer from Denmark's Novo Nordisk.

The deal also comes a few days after Sanofi agreed to buy US-based haemophilia specialist Bioverativ for $11.6 billion (See: Sanofi in pact to acquire US biotech haemophila drugs maker Bioverativ for 11.6 bn).

Under the terms of the Ablynx deal, Sanofi will pay €45 a share in cash, 47 per cent more than what Novo Nordisk had offered earlier this month and 135 per cent more than Ablynx's share price before Novo first tabled its offer in December.

The deal is contingent on Ablynx shareholders tendering at least 75 per cent of the shares.

Sanofi has entered into a bank credit facility with BNP Paribas SA to fund the acquisition.

Ablynx chief executive Edwin Moses said that the deal with Sanofi ''represents compelling value for shareholders and maximises the potential of our pipeline to the benefit of all stakeholders.''

Founded in 2001 as a spin-off of the Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie and the Free University of Brussels, Ablynx is a biotech company engaged in the discovery and development of Nanobodies.

The company has around 45 proprietary and partnered programmes with AbbVie, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eddingpharm, Novartis, Merck & Co, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and others in development in various therapeutic areas including inflammation, haematology, immuno-oncology, oncology and respiratory disease.

Ablynx's most-advanced product in development is caplacizumab, a wholly-owned development program for the treatment of acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, which is an unusual disorder in which blood clots form in small vessels throughout the body.

The product has already been filed in the EU and is expected to be filed in the US during the first half of this year.

Caplacizumab, if approved, would be the first-in-class treatment for haemophilia, an acute life-threatening disease. The Belgian company estimates it could garner annual sales of €1.2 billion at its peak.

Sanofi said that the addition of caplacizumab to its platform will strengthen its position in rare blood disorders, complementing the recently announced proposed acquisition of Bioverativ and obtain global rights for fitusiran from Alnylam.

Sanofi's CEO Olivier Brandicourt said, ''With Ablynx, we continue to advance the strategic transformation of our Research and Development, expanding our late-stage pipeline and strengthening our platform for growth in rare blood disorders. This acquisition builds on a successful existing partnership.''

''We are also pleased to reaffirm our commitment to Belgium, where we have invested significantly over the years in our state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing facility in Geel. We intend to maintain and support the Ablynx science centre in Ghent,'' he added.