Drug Development, M&A

Novo Nordisk tries to tackle Ablynx and bring it into the fold with a $3B buyout offer, but the biotech keeps saying no

Playing a hot hand with a promising late-stage asset and a newly completed $200 million IPO, Ablynx has waved away two bids by Novo Nordisk to acquire the company for a hefty premium with a bid of up to $3.1 billion.

But Novo isn’t taking no for an answer.

Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen

The Danish biopharma company says it’s going public with its offer in an attempt to put pressure on the biotech to start some serious negotiations. And Novo says it’s not just interested in caplacizumab, which is being developed for an ultra rare blood clotting disorder. The company wants to swallow Ablynx whole, taking over the entire pipeline and keeping the European operations Ablynx has built up in Belgium as it advanced its antibody technology.

Novo spelled out its latest offer of $33.60 per share in cash and one CVR with total potential cash payments over time of up to $3 per share. And the bid whipped up an instant frenzy for Ablynx’s shares $ABLX, which rocketed up 49%.

Edwin Moses

Novo — a major player in the diabetes business — has been working at this buyout through December, making its initial offer December 7 only to be turned down by the Ablynx board a week later. Then they sweetened the offer to the current level, but couldn’t get the time of day from the biotech’s board. And it got no better response when Novo CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen called Ablynx CEO Edwin Moses for a chat.

Ablynx completed its US IPO in October.

Ablynx’s drug caplacizumab targets acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (aTTP), a disorder that triggers low platelet counts. In the Phase III study, researchers reported top-line results that included a significant (p=0.01) reduction in the time it took for the platelet counts to return to normal for the drug arm — a likely indicator for the prevention of microvascular thrombosis.

Sanofi recently signed up as the latest in a lineup of partners working with Ablynx, attracted to a platform tech for small “nanobodies” which are a sliver of the size of regular antibodies — making them better built for some diseases.

Baird’s Brian Skorney couldn’t be happier. He expects a bidding war may break out.

We think this is only the starting point for Ablynx as a target and believe we could see other bidders come in. We think shares will trade above the offer price this morning, with the U.S. shares close to the $30s. We’re reiterating Ablynx as one of our top picks for 2018.

Jørgensen noted his ardent desire to keep Ablynx intact and its workers focused on the pipeline.

“Novo Nordisk and Ablynx share a common focus on innovation-driven, patient-centric R&D. Novo Nordisk intends to use its full suite of regulatory, scientific and marketing expertise to complement the existing strong management and medical team at Ablynx in order to optimise the development and global commercialisation of caplacizumab for the benefit of patients suffering from aTTP.”


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Biotech Primer Boston 2018

Private Equity Senior Associate
OrbiMed Advisors New York, NY
Business Development Manager
Novotech Boston, MA
Director, Cell MS&T
Adaptimmune Philadelphia, PA

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