Ailing AstraZeneca ($AZN) needs revenue streams, and for a while now CEO Pascal Soriot has been looking for acquisitions to offset generic competition and late-stage R&D failures. Now, reports say Korea's Celltrion could be the next company AZ scoops up. Though Celltrion says nothing is set in stone, a buyout would give AstraZeneca footing in the rocky world of biosimilars as it looks to get back on track.
According to Bloomberg, Seoul's Financial News has reported that Celltrion is in talks with AZ, citing unnamed investment bankers. The news service also received an emailed statement in April that Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung Jin planned to sell his stake in the company and two affiliates to a "multinational" pharma company. The Incheon, South Korea-based drugmaker confirmed Wednesday that its largest shareholder is in discussions with financial adviser JPMorgan. But the company stressed in a statement that "no definite structure, decision or buyer regarding the stake sale has been determined."
For AstraZeneca, Celltrion could fit the bill. Soriot has said he would pursue small to mid-sized deals and that he's been thinking of making a move into the biosimilars business. Celltrion's market cap of $5.9 billion isn't out of the ballpark. And the company recently won one of only two European recommendations for the first biosimilar versions of Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) multibillion-dollar blockbuster arthritis treatment Remicade, which raked in more than $6 billion in 2012.
Soriot has been eager to buy up new drugs the company can count on as stable sources of revenue. AstraZeneca's antipsychotic Seroquel is already off patent and under attack from generics, and its stomach blockbuster Nexium will soon face the same fate.
Also eager to restock its pipeline, the British pharma giant has been all for making deals as of late. In the past few months, the company snapped up Omthera ($OMTH), which boasts a Phase III cardio prospect; purchased Pearl Therapeutics and its chronic obstructive pulmonary disease therapy; and prepared to make a bid for Onyx Pharmaceuticals ($ONXX), whose cancer medicines also fit Soriot's agenda, cancer being a core treatment area the company would like to bolster.
- get more from Bloomberg
- read Celltrion's statement
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