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CRUCELL : fresh life into drugs sales

14 janv. 200911:02

Crucell injects fresh life into drugs sales
FT: January 13 2009

Crucell, the Dutch vaccines group, has injected fresh life into the ever more vibrant new year prospects for pharmaceutical deals, with an extra sting in the tail. The financial crisis has created a buyer’s market among cash-rich but product-poor pharmaceuticals companies, as many of their underfunded biotech brethren rush to seek saviours as an alternative to collapse.

The quantity and diversity of companies in the sector on the hunt for purchasers has been increasing and threatens to deflate purchase prices. Elan, the neuroscience business, on Tuesday became the latest to raise the prospect of a sale with the announcement of a “strategic business review”. Two European generic drugs groups – Actavis and Ratiopharm – are also coming up for sale.

But the share price jump at Crucell, following its revelation last week of “friendly discussions” with Wyeth of the US, suggests that for those with decent wares, the downturn offers a seller’s market for attractive assets. High priced, patent-protected vaccines have become a tempting new niche for the sector, with Novartis, AstraZeneca and Pfizer moving into the field alongside existing participants including GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis and Merck.

Crucell would offer Wyeth a chance to maintain its weight and to diversify its portfolio. There again, now that the Dutch group has flagged its interest in a takeover, Sanofi-Aventis and its rivals may come back with counter-offers.

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