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Sanofi Delivers $11.6 Billion Deal After Striking Out Twice

(Bloomberg) -- Sanofi is making big deals again, as Chief Executive Olivier Brandicourt agreed to pay $11.6 billion for a Biogen Inc. spinoff a little more than a year after his last takeover attempt floundered.

The French drugmaker will pay $105 a share for Bioverativ Inc., a maker of drugs for hemophilia, the companies said Monday in a statement. Sanofi’s biggest transaction in seven years represents an effort to branch out into treatments for the blood disorder, which still command lofty prices as the company’s diabetes drugs face increased pressure.

Brandicourt’s return to the merger dance after two failed deals displeased investors, who sent the stock down to the lowest level in more than 12 months, yet more transactions may still be on the way. Sanofi has said that deals for as much as 20 billion euros were possible, and as sales of its best-seller Lantus slump, the company could be a suitor for Pfizer Inc.’s or Merck KGaA’s consumer-health divisions, said Sebastien Malafosse, an analyst at Oddo-BHF in Paris.

“You might think there’s still 10 billion more euros to spend,” Malafosse said.

Brandicourt said in November that Sanofi would invest in its consumer-health business and evaluate acquisition opportunities in the sector. The Paris-based company is seeking new avenues of growth -- much like rival Novo Nordisk A/S, which two weeks ago made its largest takeover offer ever for another maker of medicines for blood disorders, Ablynx NV.

“We see Bioverativ not just as a ready-made, strong hemophilia portfolio, but also as a platform for expansion in rare blood disorders,” Brandicourt said on a conference call with analysts.

Acquisitions are critical for Sanofi given the headwinds in diabetes, which could weigh on profit this year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Sam Fazeli and Michael Shah. 

An asset swap with Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH completed last year allowed Sanofi to become one of the top three players in the market for over-the-counter remedies. Yet since joining in 2015, Brandicourt hasn’t made any major acquisitions. He tried at least twice, but failed to reel in the rare-disease player Actelion Ltd. in 2016 after earlier whiffing on cancer-drug maker Medivation Inc.

“The scope of the deal size allows us to retain flexibility to pursue other value-creating opportunities,” CFO Jerome Contamine said on the call.

Bioverativ will give Sanofi access to hemophilia doctors and patients as it pushes forward with fitusiran, the experimental hemophilia therapy for which it acquired global rights this month. The price, a 64 percent premium over Friday’s close for Bioverativ, would only be justified if the target’s growth rate were sustainable, and it likely isn’t, Emmanuel Papadakis, an analyst at Barclays in London, wrote in a note to clients.

“We think this is the wrong deal,” he said in the note.

Revenue for Waltham, Massachusetts-based Bioverativ increased 27 percent in the third quarter. Its main drugs, Eloctate and Alprolix, treat the two most common types of hemophilia and in 2016 brought in $847 million in sales, according to filings. The deal accounts for increasing competition from a new Roche Holding AG hemophilia drug, Sanofi executives said on Monday.

Unlike in diabetes, where U.S. health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers have squeezed drugmakers, the field of hemophilia has been relatively exempt from price pressures. “It’s an area where you have huge pricing power,” according to Oddo’s Malafosse.

Sanofi shares fell as much as 4.3 percent in Paris, the most intraday since June 2016, and traded at 70 euros as of 3:30 p.m. Bioverativ soared 63 percent to $104.27 at 9:30 a.m. in New York.

(Updates with CEO’s comments in the sixth paragraph.)

--With assistance from Naomi Kresge

To contact the reporter on this story: James Paton in London at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Eric Pfanner at, John Lauerman, John J. Edwards III

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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