Actelion seen on takeover list after stellar drug data

Tue Jun 17, 2014 12:10pm EDT

* Drug data could draw potential bidders - analyst

* CEO says Swiss biotech company not for sale

* Shares hit record high

By Caroline Copley

ZURICH, June 17 (Reuters) - Actelion could attract potential bidders after strong results for the Swiss biotech company's new heart and lung drug, Deutsche Bank analysts said on Tuesday, as a wave of deals sweeps through the healthcare sector.

Europe's biggest biotech company has been touted as a takeover candidate in the past and the stellar data could reassure potential investors that the firm's long-term growth prospects are on course.

Shares in Actelion, which surged 15 percent in the previous session after its experimental drug met its primary goal in a late-stage study, hit a record 111.2 Swiss francs and closed up 6.3 percent at 111.1 francs, following a flurry of upgrades from brokerages.

Analysts were re-rating the company's stock after its drug, Selexipag, achieved better-than-expected results, giving it a potential big seller to replenish its product pipeline.

"We believe results of the GRIPHON trial are a defining moment for Actelion," Deutsche Bank analyst Richard Parkes wrote in a note. "This significantly improves Actelion's attractiveness to both new investors and potential acquirers."

Selexipag is the third drug from Actelion to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a progressively worsening condition characterised by abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. The cause is unknown and the disease has no cure.

Parkes said if Selexipag is approved in late 2015, Actelion will have a broad suite of drugs to treat PAH, opening up the potential for combination therapies which could further increase the average revenue per patient.

Actelion's tax base in Switzerland - where effective corporate tax rates are among the lowest in the world - could act as a further draw with much of recent dealmaking in the healthcare sector driven by U.S. companies seeking lower tax rates abroad.

However, Actelion Chief Executive Jean-Paul Clozel sought to rebuff potential bidders in an interview with Finanz und Wirtschaft published online on Tuesday.

"Our aim is to make progress with the company independently," Clozel, who co-founded Actelion in 1997, told the business newspaper.

"This means we are not for sale. However, independence is not to be taken for granted. We have to deserve it time and time again through our performance in research and sales," he was quoted as saying.

The positive results for Selexipag follow on from the approval of another PAH treatment, Opsumit, in Europe and the United States. Both drugs are successors to Actelion's mainstay product Tracleer, which makes up over 80 percent of sales, and loses patent protection in 2015. (Editing by James Macharia)

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