Exclusive: Merck enters race for cancer drugmaker Medivation - sources

(Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc is one of at least five pharmaceutical companies that submitted indications of interest in buying U.S. cancer drug company Medivation Inc earlier this month, according to people familiar with the matter.

The logo of Merck is pictured in this illustration photograph in Cardiff, California April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Illustration/File Photo

The strong interest in Medivation illustrates how demand for new cancer treatments, which can possibly add years to patients’ lives, could mean billions of dollars in revenue to the companies that own them.

Sanofi SA, Pfizer Inc, Celgene Corp and Gilead Sciences Inc also put forward expressions of interest, the sources said. Medivation will have further conversations with potential buyers and ask them to firm up their offers, some of the sources said.

The sources asked not to be identified because details of the sale process are confidential. Medivation and Pfizer declined to comment, while Sanofi, Celgene, Gilead and Merck did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Medivation, best known for its prostate cancer drug Xtandi, said in July it had agreed to share confidential information with potential buyers after France’s Sanofi agreed to drop a campaign to oust Medivation’s board of directors.

Medivation has already rejected two acquisition offers from Sanofi, the latest for $58 per share in cash and $3 per share in the form of a contingent value right relating to the sales performance of Talazoparib, a Medivation drug under development for breast cancer treatment.

Medivation shares jumped as much as 5 percent on the news and were trading up 2 percent at $66.59 on Wednesday afternoon following the Reuters story, giving the company a market capitalization of $11 billion.

Sanofi is going after Medivation in order to expand in the lucrative oncology sector, as it seeks new businesses to compensate for flagging diabetes revenue.

For Merck, Medivation would complement its existing cancer portfolio, which includes Keytruda, a leader in the budding immuno-oncology treatment area that is expected to produce sales of more than $5 billion.

In recent weeks, Merck’s position in immuno-oncology strengthened when rival Bristol-Myers Squibb Co reported disappointing results for its rival drug, Opdivo.

In its second-quarter earnings call earlier this month, Medivation reported continued double-digit year-over-year growth of its primary drug, Xtandi, affirming the company’s expectations of more than 50 percent revenue growth for the year.

The San Francisco-based company also cited positive late stage data for Talazoparib, a drug Medivation believes will account for a significant part of the company’s long-term value.

Reporting by Carl O’Donnell and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Matthew Lewis