Actelion sale possible if new drug fails: report

ZURICH Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:05am EDT

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ZURICH (Reuters) - Actelion (ATLN.VX) could consider putting itself up for sale if key drug macitentan fails, an executive was quoted as saying on Sunday after the firm rebuffed the same demand from activist investor Elliott.

"Should macitentan not be successful then all strategic options are possible, up to and including a sale," Roland Haefeli, Actelion head of investor relations, told Der Sonntag newspaper.

Some analysts have said Actelion, Europe's largest biotech group, was unlikely to be bought before publication of data on macitentan around the end of this year.

Actelion is pinning its hopes on macitentan as an improved replacement for Tracleer -- a drug for pulmonary arterial hypertension, an often fatal disease of the heart and lungs -- which makes up around 85 percent of sales.

Haefeli said if macitentan failed then Actelion's sales would collapse from 2015 when its Tracleer patent expires. "Then there is probably not enough money to finance further product development," he said.

Actelion Chairman Robert Cawthorn told Reuters in April that the board would consider a bid for the company at the right price, but denied the firm was pinning all its hopes on macitentan, adding other drugs were in development.

Actelion announced last week it was changing its management structure, including appointing a chief operating officer, meeting some of the demands of Elliott Advisors, which has urged the firm to consider seeking a buyer due to product setbacks.

Actelion managed to see off challenges from the New York-based hedge fund at its annual general meeting last month, but analysts said the top-level changes were a sign that Actelion was reacting to the shareholder pressure.

Actelion said it had appointed a chief operating officer to allow Chief Executive Jean-Paul Clozel to focus more on strategic matters, prompting speculation that those matters could include considering a sale.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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