November 17, 2010 / 6:56 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Actelion soars on report of Amgen bid interest

* Actelion says in contact with other industry players

* Declines further comment after report of Amgen interest

* Shares rise more than 8.5 percent

(adds share price, analyst comment)

ZURICH, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Shares in Actelion ATLN.VX soared on Wednesday on reports that the world’s largest biotech firm Amgen (AMGN.O) is studying a takeover offer for the Swiss drugmaker, which says it is in “regular dialogue” with other industry players.

Shares in Actelion, which specializes in pulmonary hypertension drugs and has a market capitalisation of about $6.6 billion, were up more than 8.5 percent at 54.50 Swiss francs at 0919 GMT, outperforming slightly higher Stoxx European Healthcare index.

Actelion shares have gained 35 percent since early October as takeover talk swirled, recouping most of this year’s losses following a series on drug setbacks. “A bid would make sense, Amgen is in an uncomfortable situation because sales have been eroding,” said Helvea analyst Olav Zilian, citing Actelion’s pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) treatment Tracleer as a potential $2 billion a year drug by 2015.

“We expect their PAH franchise could extend well beyond 2015 with two late stage compounds to substitute Tracleer when the patent expires. And they have two mid-stage compounds, for auto immune disorders and allergic conditions, which would strengthen the Amgen pipeline,” Zilian said.

A spokesman for California-based Amgen on Tuesday called the Bloomberg report “rumours and speculation”, declining further comment. The company has said publicly that it is looking to expand internationally and analysts have previously named Actelion as a potential target. [ID:nN16122680]

Actelion’s efforts to reduce its dependence on key drug Tracleer, which treats a rare heart and lung disorder and rakes in more than $1 billion a year, have been thwarted by a string of recent setbacks.

These include unspecified safety problems affecting an insomnia drug in partnership with pharma group GlaxoSmithKline GSJK.L and a late-stage trial failure of experimental drug clazosentan.

The company has recently been beset by takeover rumours, with traders citing interest from companies including Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline, although on Oct. 14 a person familiar with the situation told Reuters Glaxo was not interested in Actelion.

Actelion Chief Executive Officer Jean Paul Clozel told Reuters in October that remaining independent was the best way for the company to create value for shareholders. [ID:nLDE69J2BX]

Bloomberg reported that Clozel has discussed asking Roche Holding AG ROG.VX, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N) to take a minority stake in Actelion as a defensive measure.

Roche CEO Severin Schwann declined to comment.

Roche, which on Wednesday set out plans to slash its annual costs by 2.4 billion Swiss francs, is still interested in external partnerships and licensing deals as well as small and medium-sized acquisitions, Schwan said. [ID:nLDE6AF29X] (Reporting by Martin de Sa’Pinto; Editing by Hans Peters)

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