Biogen looks at selling biosims unit to longtime ally Samsung Bioepis: reports

During a first-quarter earnings call, as CEO Chris Viehbacher talked of his plan to return Biogen to growth, he said the company needed to figure out the best way to manage its biosimilar business and determine who might be its “best owner.”

Three months later, it appears that Biogen has come up with an answer, as it is negotiating a potential sale of the unit to longtime partner Samsung Bioepis, according to a report from the Korea-based Yonhap News Agency. The publication cited "industry sources" in reporting the deal talks.

A Biogen spokesperson said by email that the company "does not comment on market rumors and/or speculation." 

"We have previously announced in earnings that we are evaluating strategic options for the biosimilars business and will provide further updates on the process as appropriate," the spokesperson added.

In a statement to Yonhap, a Samsung Bioepis official said that "nothing has been set."

"We are reviewing various strategies to secure our biosimilar production capability at a global level and are now focusing on expanding our R&D on competitive pipelines and our sales networks," the Samsung Bioepis official added, as quoted by the publication.

The deal would be for less than $770 million, according to a separate report in Korea JoongAng Daily.

Last year, Biogen reported its first annual decline in biosimilars sales. They came in at $751 million, down from $831 million in 2021.

A deal between Biogen and Samsung Bioepis would not be a surprise considering their long association. Biogen was instrumental in getting Samsung Bioepis off the ground in 2012 when it ponied up $45 million for a 15% stake in the company, which focuses exclusively on biosimilars.

Six years later, Biogen spent $700 million to exercise an option to gain a 50% stake—minus one share—in Samsung Bioepis. Then last year, with Biogen reeling from its high-stakes failure to launch Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm, the company sold its interest in the joint venture for $2.3 billion.

Less than a month ago, Samsung Bioepis' parent company Samsung Biologics struck an $897 million deal with Pfizer to manufacture a variety of its biosimilars at its sprawling complex in South Korea.

Other deals Samsung Biologics has made this year with Big Pharma players include a $177 million pact with Eli Lilly in March, a $27 million agreement with GSK in February and an $11 million commitment with Roche in June.