Shire to sell oncology business to Servier for $2.4bn

Shire is offloading its oncology unit to France's Servier for $2.4bn in push for rare disease crown

Shire to sell oncology business to Servier for $2.4bn

Shire has agreed to sell its cancer drugs business to French drugmaker Servier for $2.4bn, even as it prepared for a possible takeover offer from Takeda.

Don't expect the sale of the oncology business to spark a cash infusion into Shire's R&D. Takeda's interest in Shire (Hamburg: 3979575.HM - news) was made public only at the end of last month.

The UK Takeover Panel gave the Japanese firm a deadline of April 25 to announce a firm intention to bid or walk away. The market value of Shire is about $47 billion. A pursuit of Shire would be one of the biggest attempts by a Japanese company to buy a Western rival.

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Shire CEO Dr Flemming Ørnskov said: "This transaction is a key milestone for Shire, demonstrating the clear value embedded in our portfolio".

The proceeds from the transaction, which is expected to close in this or next quarter, would "increase optionality". Launched in 19 countries, Lonsurf generated €62 million ($76.8 million) in revenue during 2016-2017, according to a Servier announcement that did not furnish revenues for Pixuvri.

Shire's oncology business includes products such as Oncaspar (pegaspargase), part of a multi-agent treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and ex-U.S. rights to Onivyde (irinotecan pegylated liposomal formulation), part of a multi-agent treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer after gemcitabine-based therapy, and Calaspargase Pegol (Cal-PEG), which is now under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ALL and early stage immuno-oncology pipeline collaborations.

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"We see the possible strategic fit given the company's focus therapeutic areas of oncology, gastrointestinal and neuroscience, with Shire bolstering the latter two franchises", Jefferies analyst Peter Welford wrote in reference to Takeda in an April 16 note.

If Takeda does make an official bid for Shire, this sale might make it slightly more affordable.

Its oncology business had sales of $262 million a year ago, putting the divestment on a respectable revenue multiple of 9.2 times. Meanwhile, privately held Servier says adding Shire's cancer drugs will give it a commercial presence in the USA while also strengthening its portfolio in the parts of the world where the France-based company is already established.

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Meanwhile, Servier group president Olivier Laureau said the acquisition will enable the company to "meet its strategic ambitions to become a global key player in oncology", in particular by helping it establish a direct commercial presence in the US.

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