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Swiss drugmaker Vifor had bid interest but talks halted - sources

LONDON/ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Vifor Pharma had a recent takeover approach from at least one private equity firm, but talks were halted due to differences over price, two sources familiar with the situation said.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss drugmaker Vifor Pharma is seen at the company's headquarters in Glattbrugg, Switzerland November 16, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

The financial investors behind the initial approach suspended the discussions after failing to agree on a deal that would have seen Vifor delisted from Switzerland’s SIX exchange, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Vifor declined to comment on Friday.

Shares in Vifor jumped 17% to 139.35 Swiss francs by 1303 GMT after Reuters was first to report the takeover talks.

Reuters was not immediately able to determine the names of the interested parties in Vifor, which at a price of 123 Swiss francs per share, is valued at around 8 billion Swiss francs ($8.82 billion).

The proposed takeover would have valued Vifor at about 10 billion Swiss francs, one of the sources said.

It was not immediately clear whether negotiations would be resumed or whether other bidders including healthcare companies might also consider making an approach for Vifor.

Investor Martin Ebner and his wife Rosmarie are Vifor’s largest shareholders with a combined stake of around 20%, so any takeover is unlikely to succeed without their approval.

A spokesman for Ebner declined to comment.

Sources familiar with the situation said the Ebners could sell their stake under certain conditions.

Etienne Jornod, who led Vifor as chairman for more than two decades, resigned in May.

Vifor was listed in 2017 as part of the break up of Swiss drugmaker Galenica. Its main business is making active ingredients for iron deficiency such as Ferinject.

Vifor sold its immunotherapeutics subsidiary OM Pharma to Jornod’s Optimus Holding for 435 million francs in September.

The deal, which helped streamline Vifor’s portfolio, made the company a more attractive target, financial sources have said.

The company’s revenues rose by 18.5% in 2019 to 1.88 billion Swiss francs and it reported a profit of 159 million francs. For the current year, it has forecast growth will slow to 5% in local currencies.

Vifor also operates a joint venture with Fresenius Medical Care, which develops and markets drugs for kidney disease. Its smallest business is a drug against elevated potassium levels.

($1 = 0.9074 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia, Oliver Hirt and Arno Schuetze; Writing by Michael Shields; Editing by Alexander Smith and Susan Fenton

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