August 13, 2014 / 5:21 PM / 4 years ago

InterMune taps banks as it braces for buyout bids: sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Biotechnology company InterMune Inc is working with financial advisers to evaluate strategic options as it braces for potential takeover interest from larger drugmakers, people familiar with the matter said.

InterMune is in the early stages of considering options, including a potential sale, and is not soliciting takeover offers, the people said on Wednesday, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

The drugmaker, which specializes in treating fatal scarring of the lungs and has a market value of more than $5 billion, is being advised by Centerview Partners and Goldman Sachs Group in its review, the people added.

A small number of drugmakers are in the early stages of evaluating a potential offer for InterMune and are working with advisers, but there is no guarantee one will materialize, the people said.

Shares of InterMune jumped 11 percent to $50.70 on Nasdaq on Wednesday, giving it a market capitalization of nearly $5.5 billion.

Representatives for Centerview could not be immediately reached for comment. Spokesmen for InterMune and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Separately, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that InterMune has drawn takeover bids from Sanofi SA, Roche Holding AG, GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Actelion Ltd.

Makers of orphan drugs such as InterMune, which develop treatments for rare diseases, are attractive for larger biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies looking to offset a drop in sales as their patents on blockbuster products expire.

InterMune had considered selling itself about three years ago and held discussions with potential buyers. They decided not to pursue a deal at that time due to uncertainty over data for the company’s pirfenidone drug, people familiar with the matter told Reuters previously.

However, buyer interest has been rekindled this year after the company announced positive late-stage trial results for pirfenidone in February.

The drug treats idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, which is characterized by a slow decline in lung function and has no known cause.

Healthcare companies are merging at a record pace, with year-to-date activity topping $345.9 billion, compared to $212.2 billion in the year-ago period, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Recent large deals have included AbbVie Inc’s $54 billion acquisition of Shire PLC, Medtronic Inc’s acquisition of Covidien PLC for $42.9 billion, and Pfizer Inc’s abortive $118 billion attempt to buy AstraZeneca PLC.

Reporting by Soyoung Kim and Olivia Oran in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish and Richard Chang

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