Biotech mergers and acquisitions heat up as Sanofi buys Ablynx for €3.9bn

Courtney Goldsmith
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Sanofi picked up its second biotech firm in a week (Source: Getty)

France's Sanofi has agreed to snap up its second biotech firm in a week as mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the sector accelerates.

Sanofi beat out Novo Nordisk to buy Belgian biotech Ablynx for €3.9bn (£3.4bn).

Ablynx, which has developed a drug to treat a rare blood clotting disease, rejected a €2.6bn unsolicited offer from Novo Nordisk earlier this month. Today, Novo said it would not be making a revised offer.

Sanofi will pay €45 per share in cash, a premium of 21.2 per cent over Ablynx's closing price on Friday.

Sanofi's chief executive Olivier Brandicourt said the purchase of Ablynx and its potential blockbuster treatment would expand its late-stage pipeline and strengthen its growth in rare blood disorders.

The two firms had already been partnered up to find new treatments in inflammatory diseases since last year.

M&A activity in the biotech space has sped up this year with a number of multibillion-pound deals being agreed in January.

Last week, Sanofi agreed to buy US haemophilia specialist Bioverativ for $11.6bn (£8.2bn), and US-based Calgene also recently said it would buy cancer specialist Juno Therapeutics for $9bn.

Many large pharmaceutical companies are looking to pick up promising biotech firms to fill their ageing pipelines with new treatments.

Jens Lindqvist, a partner and senior research analyst at N+1 Singer, said licensing deals will likely continue to dominate the agenda as big firms aim to avoid becoming too involved with other companies' corporate affairs, with an exception for platform deals where an acquisition could bring a substantial strategic advantage, as in the case of Ablynx.

A recent report by Silicon Valley Bank predicted 20 or more "big exits" from biotech this year.

Read more: City investors are poised to miss out on the UK’s biotech boom - here's why

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