Marie Daghlian

AstraZeneca has blocked an $8.1 billion buyout deal to take Swedish Orphan Biovitrum private by refusing to tender its 8 percent stake in the company, according to a report in Bloomberg News.

Sobi shares fell 25 percent on the news that the buyout, which was contingent on 90 percent of shares being tendered and would have been the largest healthcare private takeover in Europe this year, fell short of its goal.

The deal had seemed likely to go through because major Sobi shareholder Investor AB, which held 36.5 percent of Sobi shares, had separately agreed to tender its shares conditional on a better offer not being extended.

According to the Bloomberg report, AstraZeneca withheld its shares because it was seeking to buy certain assets from Sobi and was afraid that they could be sold to a competitor if Sobi went private. Sobi had bought rights to AstraZeneca’s respiratory drug Synagis in a 2019 deal that also gave the Big Pharma an 8 percent stake in the company.

In a statement issued by Sobi’s Board of Directors, the company reaffirmed its commitment to helping people with rare diseases and commented on the bid process: “As we have announced, the Board supported the public offer by Advent and GIC, as we believed in the strategic merit of the transaction. Subsequent discussions regarding the potential execution of the transaction have been directly dealt with between the bidding consortium and Sobi shareholders,” said Håkan Björklund, chairman of Sobi.

Sobi’s portfolio is focused on rare disease therapies and services in the areas of hematology, immunology, and specialty care with six key products and offices in more than 30 countries. Through acquisitions and partnerships, it has more than ten late-stage R&D programs targeting significant unmet medical needs.

Its portfolio includes ex-U.S. commercial rights to Apellis Pharmaceuticals’ C3 inhibitor Empaveli, recently approved in the United States to treat paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria after beating Alexion’s Soliris in improving patients’ hemoglobin levels.

It also includes anti-interferon-gamma antibody Gamifant to treat the rare disease primary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (pHLH), for which it gained full rights through a 2019 deal with Novimmune, soon after it gained U.S. approval. Although the European Medicines Agency twice rejected Gamifant in pHLH, Sobi is evaluating it in secondary HLH and acute graft failure.

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