- Danish Novo Nordisk A/S has submitted another takeover offer for Ablynx NV, but the Belgium biotech still believes its would-be suitor doesn't appreciate the company's true value.
- Per deal terms, Novo would pay up to €30.50 ($36.50) per Ablynx share, amounting to a total payout of €2.6 billion ($3.1 billion). Novo noted that this latest proposal is a 14% increase from another it floated in early December, and represents a 66% premium over Ablynx's three-month volume weighted average price as of Jan. 5.
- Acquiring Ablynx would give Novo access to a pipeline of nanobody drugs that includes eight clinical-stage assets as well as a handful of pre-clinical ones. The biotech's most advanced candidate, caplacizumab, a treatment for acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, is currently under review at the European Medicines Agency.
Novo envisions strengthening its hematology franchise by bringing caplacizumab onboard. Ablynx's board of directors, however, has yet to see how the deal adequately benefits their company or its investors.
"The Board sees no merit in ceding control of its assets without full upfront value recognition for shareholders and believes the proposed consideration ... does not constitute a basis for further discussions at this time," Ablynx CEO Edwin Moses said in a Jan. 8 statement.
Ablynx isn't alone in thinking Novo's bid wasn't high enough. Jefferies analyst Peter Welford estimated the biotech could be worth €36 ($43) per share in a Jan. 7 note.
Yet that optimistic view hinges on a few achievements. Ablynx would need to get an EMA thumbs up for caplacizumab; progress its IL-6R inhibitor vobarilizumab in the rheumatoid arthritis indication and have AbbVie Inc. opt-in on licensing the drug for systemic lupus erythematosus; and advance its treatment for respiratory syncytial virus into Phase 3 testing.
Ablynx's recent clinical victories coupled with its partnerships with several big players such as Sanofi SA, Merck & Co. and Boehringer Ingelheim GmBH also improve the company's negotiating power.
"Ablynx also has a Nanobody platform that has demonstrated the ability to generate new therapeutics, plus numerous collaborations with other companies that could drive longer-term value, none of which are reflected in our base case NPVs," Welford wrote. "Given this profile and Ablynx being on the cusp of potentially launching a highly profitable rare disease drug in [caplacizumab], we could envisage other pharma/biotech to express an interest."
Response to the news was dramatically different for the two companies' investors. Ablynx shares opened Monday at $36.64 apiece on, up 41% from Friday's close, while Novo saw its stock tick down less than 1% to $54.56 per share.
It's unclear how long Novo will try to court Ablynx, though it did urge the biotech to engage in transaction talks in a statement of its own. For now, the companies will continue a research collaboration inked in 2015.
Novo intended to finance the transaction with cash only. The pharma reported DKK 18.9 billion (about $2.95 billion) in cash and cash equivalents as of Sept. 30.