LONDON GlaxoSmithKline launched its promised $2.6 billion tender for shares in long-time partner Human Genome Sciences on Thursday, setting out an initial timetable of just under a month to win control.
The offer to buy all the outstanding shares in the biotechnology company will expire at 12:00 midnight New York time on June 7, unless it is extended, GSK said in a brief statement.
The history of takeover battles in the biotechnology sector suggests an extension is quite likely and investors may hold out for a higher price.
Since GSK's interest was made public three weeks ago, more than 207 million shares in Human Genome have traded, representing 104 percent of the shares, Reuters data shows.
As a result, an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the stock is now owned by arbitrageurs hoping to cash in on the pending deal, according to one person familiar with the situation.
Britain's biggest drugmaker previously said it planned to go hostile and take the $13-a-share offer direct to shareholders this week after the U.S. biotech company's board rebuffed its approach last month.
GSK and Human Genome - an early pioneer of gene-based drug discovery - together sell Benlysta, a new drug for the autoimmune condition lupus. They are also collaborating on two other experimental drugs in late-stage trials for diabetes and heart disease that could become significant sellers.
Buying Human Genome would give GSK full rights to these partnered drugs, underscoring the appetite among big drugmakers for biotech products to drive future sales.
Human Genome's board spurned the approach on April 19, saying it did not reflect the company's inherent value. GSK insists its bid, at an 81 percent premium to the price on April 18, is full and fair.
The U.S. company said on Wednesday, when GSK first announced its plan to go hostile, that it would make a recommendation to shareholders within 10 business days of GSK commencing its tender, but it noted the offer was identical to the price it had already rejected.
Although GSK is standing firm, many investors anticipate it will have to offer a modest improvement before it finally clinches the deal.
Shares in Human Genome were unchanged at $14.59 in early trade on Thursday and a Reuters poll of 13 analysts found that, on average, they believe the deal will get done at about $15 per share.
GSK's partnership with the Rockville, Maryland-based company goes back two decades and analysts doubt another company will emerge as a "white knight" bidder, since any non-GSK acquirer would only get partial control of the key drugs.
(Additional reporting by Soyoung Kim in New York; Editing by Chris Wickham and Greg Mahlich)