JPM23: J&J stayed in the back seat during Horizon bidding war, CEO says

In the recent battle for rare disease expert Horizon, Johnson & Johnson largely stuck to the background, CEO Joaquin Duato explained at this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

In the presence of rival bidders Sanofi and Amgen, J&J only got so far as a market presentation, the company’s CEO and chairman of the board said in San Francisco this week.

While the interest was there initially, “Horizon Therapeutics was not a company that was in the sweetest spot of our strategic criteria,” Duato said at an in-person presentation Monday.

Upon viewing Horizon’s market presentation, J&J had to telegraph its interest according to Irish securities rules.

“And due to these rules, we were in the press release,” Duato noted.

But after attending Horizon’s presentation, J&J determined that the “acquisition didn’t meet our strategic criteria,” Duato said.

“And as a consequence, we never entered into diligence, never put a bid for Horizon,” the CEO pointed out.

Duato shared his insights just weeks after Amgen locked in a $28 billion offer for Horizon, which makes thyroid eye disease drug Tepezza, chronic gout treatment Krystexxa and Uplizna, which is a relatively new treatment aimed at neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.

Ultimately, while J&J passed on the Horizon bidding war, the company is "well equipped in order to be able to identify, onboard and develop external innovation opportunities,” Duato said. “We have a tremendous infrastructure in order to be able to do that.”

J&J’s “sweet spot,” as Duato put it, is in “opportunities that were earlier on, that were in a space of high unmet medical need, that were clearly differentiated, in which we have internal capabilities and expertise for evaluating and developing these medicines.”

Now, looking ahead, Duato stressed that J&J is “not adverse to larger [deals].”