Vectura to choose next owner after Carlyle, Philip Morris submit final bids: report

In the bidding war for British inhalation specialist Vectura, healthcare investor The Carlyle Group has said its latest £958 million ($1.32 billion) offer is final. Now, Vectura will be in a position to choose its new owner, Alliance News reports.

Marlboro maker Philip Morris International, which has been in the tobacco game since 1847, has been snapping up biopharma companies left and right this summer as it looks to go “beyond nicotine” and push into fields such as respiratory drug delivery. Sunday, the company lifted its offer for Vectura to 165 pence per share, or about £1.02 billion ($1.4 billion).

In a rare turn of events, Caryle and Philip Morris were set to duke it out in the auction ring Wednesday if they didn’t lock in final offers by Tuesday. That process now appears unnecessary. Philip Morris has until Thursday to lock in its final bid, at which point Vectura can choose its fate, according to Alliance News.

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The developments come after Vectura recently said it was better suited to go with Carlyle. The company “may be better positioned under Carlyle ownership to meet both the Company’s existing strategy, and the interests of a number of its current stakeholders," Vectura said last week.

Further, Vectura has acknowledged the “uncertainties” surrounding a potential takeover by cigarette juggernaut Philip Morris. Vectura for many years was working on its own therapies for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, though it recently pivoted to become a CDMO for inhaled medicines.

Vectura isn’t the only party that has expressed anxiety about a potential crossover between its respiratory repertoire and Philip Morris’ tobacco portfolio. British business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was reported to be working with the government earlier to get a better sense of Philip Morris’ plans for the company, The Times reported in July.

The American Lung Association and the American Thoracic Society last month called Philip Morris’ buyout offer “the latest reprehensible choice from a company that has profited from addicting users to its deadly products.” They voiced concerns that Philip Morris would use Vectura’s inhalation tech “to make their tobacco products more addictive” and profit off the diseases their tobacco products cause.

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The groups urged Vectura shareholders to reject the offer. Barring that, they asked the British government to “intervene and stop the sale.”

Philip Morris has had an easier time with two other buyouts this year. In July, it laid out 5.1 billion Danish krone ($813 million) for oral drug delivery specialist Fertin Pharma. The deal will give Philip Morris access to a range of delivery technologies, including chewing gums used to administer nicotine. Earlier this week, the Marlboro maker said it was angling to buy respiratory drug development company OtiTopic, which is working on a late-stage inhalable acetylsalicylic acid for heart attacks.