Belgium’s Ablynx rejects Novo Nordisk’s €2.6bn takeover approach

Board said offer ‘fundamentally undervalues’ Ablynx and its prospects

Photograph: Scanpix Denmark/Liselotte Sabroe via Reuters

Photograph: Scanpix Denmark/Liselotte Sabroe via Reuters


Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk the world’s biggest maker of insulin, went public with a €2.6 billionbid for Belgian biotech group Ablynx on Monday as it seeks to bolster its treatments for rare blood disorders.

Ablynx said it rejected Novo’s latest takeover approach and analysts predict the Danish group, whose new chief executive is seeking growth by buying drugs developed by competitors, might face counterbidders and would need to raise its bid.

The approach comes at a time of renewed interest by large drugmakers in smaller biotech firms, with US-based Celgene clinching a deal to buy Impact Biomedicines for up to $7 billion on Sunday and Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical agreeing last week to buy another Belgian biotech group TiGenix for $630 million.

Novo has offered up to €30.50 per share for Ablynx, which represents a 60 per cent premium to the Belgian company’s December 6th share price, before its first approach. Ablynx shares were suspended until further notice by Belgium’s market regulator on Monday and last traded at €21.20 on Friday.

Ablynx said in a statement that its board “unanimously concluded that the proposal fundamentally undervalues Ablynx and its strong prospects for continued growth and value creation”. The Belgian group specialises in the research of novel drugs based on nano-bodies found in the immune systems of llamas and alpacas, for which it partners with several of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

The main attraction for Novo is Ablynx’s experimental drug caplacizumab for the rare bleeding disorder acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, which would complement Novo’s line-up of blood products focused on haemophilia. The $11 billion haemophilia market is facing upheaval and Novo stands to lose sales following approval of a new Roche drug Hemlibra.

Biopharmaceutical treatments, led by haemophilia, make up around 20 per cent of Novo’s sales, with diabetes and obesity products accounting for the remaining 80 per cent.

“We have solid growth in our diabetes and obesity business but we are struggling a little bit to maintain the same level of growth momentum in biopharma,” Novo’s chief financial officer Jesper Brandgaard said. - Reuters