Boosted by Opsumit, one-time target Actelion is ready to make its own deals

Actelion CFO André Muller

Actelion hasn't been too keen on becoming an M&A target lately. But if it's the one in the driver's seat? Bring on the deals, CFO André Muller says.

"We are actively looking for M&A opportunities," he told Reuters on Tuesday, amid a 25% hike in first-quarter earnings.

New pulmonary arterial hypertension drug Opsumit helped the biotech exceed analyst expectations for the period, pushing revenue up by 10% to CHF 515 million and helping profit reach CHF 159 million. Thanks to that performance, Actelion also raised its full-year guidance for core earnings growth, predicting low double-digit gains measured in constant currency.

Strong Opsumit showings have in the past triggered M&A talk, too, but until now the buzz has surrounded the drugmaker's potential as a pickup for another company. As early as 2013, analysts were throwing around GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Bayer--both of whom sell competing drugs for PAH--as logical buyers, and the tax-inversion craze only increased speculation that larger pharmas may be eying the European biotech as a means to lower rates.

Actelion CEO Jean-Paul Clozel

CEO Jean-Paul Clozel, though, has been adamant about maintaining Actelion's independence, and late last year he lauded new, stricter rules U.S. rules that stemmed the tax inversion tide.

"People will have to be very careful in their acquisitions," he told Bloomberg in October. "I'm very happy with this new evolution. I do hope that people make acquisitions because of the value of the companies and not because of tax."

And Actelion intends to be careful itself as it pursues its own buys, which could help it reduce its reliance on Opsumit's sinking predecessor, Tracleer--a med that generated 67% of total product revenue for the quarter. While the cardio-focused company hasn't given any clues as to what kinds of deals it'll be scouting, rest assured, investors: "We will remain disciplined, especially in this M&A frenzy that we've seen in the recent past," Muller told Reuters.

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