| NEW YORK, July 12
NEW YORK, July 12 Shire Plc is seeking a
higher takeover offer from U.S. drugmaker AbbVie Inc
that would value the company at about 31 billion pounds ($53
billion), according to people familiar with the matter.
Shire, which on Friday confirmed it has met with AbbVie to
discuss a takeover, had asked AbbVie to sweeten its offer to
close to 53 pounds per share in order to get blessing from the
Dublin-based maker of drugs for rare diseases, the people said.
Shire's asking price is not far above AbbVie's latest 51.15
pounds per share bid and the relative small valuation gap
suggests the two sides may be getting closer to agreeing on a
Under British takeover rules AbbVie has until July 18 to
announce a firm offer for Shire or walk away.
Representatives for Shire and AbbVie did not respond on
Saturday to requests for comment. The sources asked not to be
named because the discussions are private.
AbbVie, which is based in suburban Chicago and makes
top-selling arthritis drug Humira and other medicines, raised
its cash and stock offer to about $51 billion on Tuesday, hoping
to win over its reluctant target after three earlier offers were
AbbVie is eager to buy Shire both to reduce its U.S. tax
bill by moving its tax base to Britain - a tactic known as
inversion - and to diversify its drug portfolio. AbbVie
currently gets nearly 60 percent of its revenue from rheumatoid
arthritis drug Humira, the world's top-selling medicine, which
loses U.S. patent protection in late 2016.
In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, AbbVie Chief
Executive Richard Gonzalez refused to be drawn on the
possibility of increasing his offer, but said he was leaving all
AbbVie's move on Shire is the second attempt by a U.S.
drugmaker to buy a London-listed rival after Pfizer's $118
billion pursuit of AstraZeneca failed last month over price.
That deal was also driven in large part by tax savings.
Gonzalez met with Flemming Ornskov, his counterpart at
Shire, on Thursday in New York, a person familiar with the
matter told Reuters on Friday. The meeting followed urging from
some top investors in Shire, who have written to the company's
board expressing their support for a deal and arguing that
AbbVie's latest offer is a good enough number for Shire to allow
for due diligence.
Shire, founded in Britain, is headquartered in Dublin but
managed from Boston and has most of its sales in the United
States, resulting in a minimal business footprint in Britain.
As a result, the potential takeover of the company has not
created the political storm that accompanied Pfizer's pursuit of
Shire's Ornskov has said he is happy for the company to be
sold at the right price - but he has also laid out a detailed
case as to why it is worth a lot more than AbbVie has offered.
(Reporting by Olivia Oran and Soyoung Kim; Editing by Dan
Grebler and Paul Simao)