FT: Actelion's not down for an outright J&J buy. But something more complex? Maybe

Actelion has been pretty vocal the past couple of years about wanting to keep flying solo. So recent word from Johnson & Johnson that it had gotten the European biotech to the dealmaking table raised some eyebrows.

Turns out, the Swiss drugmaker isn’t actively thinking of selling itself outright, the Financial Times’ sources say. Instead, it’s weighing a complex deal to join hands with part of the New Jersey company while maintaining its independence.

Such a transaction would form a new, larger biotech, of which J&J would become a major shareholder. The pharma giant could also wind up throwing in some cash at Actelion’s request to seal the deal, the FT reports.

For now, though, nothing is set in stone. Actelion is reviewing its options with advisers, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch. And it’s also unclear whether J&J--which can afford to swallow Actelion-sized targets whole--will go for the more complicated transaction.

J&J may have seen Actelion’s anti-takeover sentiment coming, though, and started off looking for a deal solution that would appeal to CEO Jean-Paul Clozel, one FT sources said. Clozel certainly hasn’t been shy about publicly sharing his feelings on the topic; in April, he told Bloomberg that “if we want to continue to create shareholder value, the best for us is to remain independent.”

“We at Actelion—the board of directors, the management, the employees—are all building a company and not thinking about being sold the next day,” he said at the time.

Meanwhile, though, bankers are working to get other Big Pharma players to consider their own Actelion approaches, the FT says. Roche has found its way into Actelion rumors time and time again, in part fueled by the fact that Clozel was an exec at the Swiss behemoth before founding Actelion in 1997. In April, a media report listed Sanofi as a potential suitor, too.