Sanofi brushes off talk of Regeneron takeover

Sanofi and Regeneron worked together on the colorectal cancer drug Zaltrap.--Courtesy of Sanofi/Regeneron

Just what does Sanofi ($SNY) have planned with Regeneron ($REGN)? The two companies raised eyebrows this morning with the announcement that Sanofi would be snapping up enough Regeneron stock to surpass the $500 million antitrust-notification threshold.

It could be that Sanofi simply sees Regeneron as a good investment, and it's buying shares on the open market and from larger shareholders simply for that reason. Plenty of other people would agree. The company's macular degeneration drug Eylea ranks among the most successful new drug launches in recent memory. Eylea has racked up hundreds of millions in sales and several percentage points' worth of market share stolen from Roche's ($RHHBY) rival drug Lucentis.

But Sanofi and Regeneron are also partners. They worked together on the colorectal cancer drug Zaltrap, sold in the U.S. since last summer and approved in Europe just last week. They've agreed to work together on some other drugs, notably a cholesterol-fighting PCSK9 drug in late-stage trials. And that--combined with Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher's ongoing hunt for deals--is fueling some talk of a Sanofi takeover attempt.

Sanofi and Regeneron moved to quash that sort of speculation. Sanofi spokesman Jean-Marc Podvin told FierceBiotech that his company is "very happy" with its relationship with Regeneron, in which it already owns a 17% stake. And in a statement, Regeneron pointed out that its deal with Sanofi caps the French drugmaker's investment at 30% of its common stock, for 5 years after their collaboration agreements end.

"Sanofi has the right to increase its shareholding in Regeneron ... over time subject to market conditions and within the terms of our partnership agreement," Podvin said, citing the 2007 collaboration arrangement. "Sanofi has not announced any intention to take a controlling stake in Regeneron," Podvin said. 

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