* U.S. drugmaker urges deal in talks with Shire shareholders
* Reiterates desire to engage in negotiations with Shire
* No indication on possibility of raising $46 billion offer
* Low-profile approach contrasts with Pfizer move on Astra
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON, July 3 AbbVie Chief Executive
Richard Gonzalez has pressed the case for his $46 billion
pursuit of drugmaker Shire in discreet meetings with
shareholders in London this week and is now weighing his next
move, according to people familiar with the matter.
Shire shareholders who met with Gonzalez said he had
reiterated the case for a deal, arguing that AbbVie would create
more value from Shire's assets than the hyperactivity and rare
diseases specialist could do on its own.
One person described the meeting he attended as fairly
uneventful, with AbbVie giving no indication on the possibility
of raising its offer - a move widely expected in order to get
the deal done.
Gonzalez, who under British takeover rules has until July 18
to make a firm bid for Shire or walk away, has flown back to
Chicago for the U.S. long holiday weekend.
AbbVie declined to comment on the meetings.
Shire has rejected three separate proposals from the U.S.
group, arguing the last offer of 46.26 pounds a share in cash
and stock fundamentally undervalued the company.
While AbbVie has yet to budge on price since Reuters first
revealed its bid interest on June 19, it has stated that a deal
at 46.26 would lift its earnings "materially" - a comment taken
by analysts as a signal that it can afford to pay more.
"I'm certainly expecting a revised offer - they are not
going to come to the shareholders like this and then disappear,"
said Navid Malik, head of life sciences research at Cenkos
Securities, who has a 52 pounds target for the shares.
Shire shares were 0.8 percent higher at 45.81 pounds by 0825
Sources familiar with the situation said Gonzalez was ready
to consider bidding more but first wanted to explain his case
direct to major Shire shareholders and urge them to put pressure
on Shire to engage, while also getting to hear their views on
AbbVie has already made clear it wants to start serious
talks with Shire and gain access to its books to get more
clarity on sales prospects for certain key drugs, although it
has not ruled out going hostile.
In contrast to Pfizer's recent high-profile - and
unsuccessful - bid for AstraZeneca, AbbVie's pursuit of
Shire is much more low key, reflecting the U.S. company's
publicity-shy nature and the lack of a big political dimension
to the proposed takeover.
Gonzalez has eschewed media interviews during his round of
meetings with investors this week.
"One of the challenges with the Pfizer situation was it was
very high profile because of the size of the deal and the large
infrastructure AstraZeneca has in the UK," Malik said. "AbbVie
is taking a more discreet approach."
Shire, while founded in Britain, is today managed out of
Boston, headquartered in Dublin and has most of its sales in the
United States, resulting in a minimal business footprint in
AbbVie is eager to buy Shire, both to reduce taxation by
redomiciling in Britain - a tactic known as inversion - and to
diversify its drug portfolio. The U.S. company 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.
(Additional reporting by Olivia Oran in New York. Editing by