* Value may reach 1.3 billion euros or more
* Crucell shares at 16-month high on Wyeth talks
* Talks may trigger bidding war
(Adds analyst comment, background, updates shares)
By Harro ten Wolde
AMSTERDAM, Jan 8 Shares in Dutch biotechnology
firm Crucell CRCL.AS rose 35 percent on Thursday after the
company said it was in talks with U.S. drug maker Wyeth WYE.N
about a takeover of the Leiden-based company.
"My impression is Crucell will play hard to get and
eventually Sanofi or Novartis will appear in the stage,"
Petercam analyst Jan van den Bossche said.
Crucell, which was valued at 757 million euros ($1 billion)
before news of merger talks hit, is seen fetching at least 1.3
billion euros. Crucell said late on Wednesday that discussions
were at a preliminary stage. [ID:nN07501131]
The bid for Crucell underlines the big drug companies'
growing appetite for vaccines -- once viewed as a low-margin,
slow-growing business -- but now offering some of the best
prospects for promising new products.
Crucell is developing an influenza vaccine with
Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA), based on its PER.C6 gene technology,
which uses human cells as a platform to produce drugs.
Novartis NOVN.VX provides four of the five vaccine
components of Quinvaxem, a vaccine cocktail for the childhood
diseases diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and hepatitis B.
Shares in Crucell were up 35 percent at 15.78 euros at a
16-month high by 0928 GMT, outperforming a 2 percent higher
Amsterdam midcap index .AMX.
MORE THAN 20 EUROS/SHR
The Wall Street Journal, citing persons familiar with the
situation, said in its online edition late on Wednesday that a
deal which could be reached within a week, could be valued at
more than $1.35 billion.
Van den Bossche said the number appeared to be a little on
the low side. "Shares could go to more than 20 euros in case of
a bidding war," he added, which would value the company at 1.3
billion euros ($1.8 billion).
Wyeth is one of the world's most prominent vaccine makers,
whose products include the blockbuster Prevnar vaccine to
protect infants and young children from infections with
Crucell is one of the world's few remaining independent
vaccine makers. Another one is Austria's Intercell ICEL.VI,
whose shares were up 6.3 percent at 24.00 euros on the news.
Crucell posted its first-ever quarterly profit in November
boosted by strong sales in its Quinvaxem, which was acquired in
2006 through the acquisition of Berna Biotech.
(Additional reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mike