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Serono held talks with four leading drugmakers

Serono has held talks with four leading drugmakers about a potential $15 billion takeover in recent weeks, the Wall Street Journal said on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
/ Source: Reuters

Serono has held talks with four leading drugmakers about a potential $15 billion takeover in recent weeks, the Wall Street Journal said on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Serono, the world’s third-largest biotechnology group, has spoken to Switzerland’s Novartis, UK-based GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis from France and U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, the newspaper said.

A spokesman for Serono declined to comment on the article.

The report comes one day after the Swiss company said it had hired investment bank Goldman Sachs Group to explore various strategic alternatives, sending its shares up as markets bet on a premium-priced bid for the firm.

The list of companies approached by Serono has been selective, with some likely buyers left out, particularly a group of candidates in the United States, the paper said.

Still, some of the potential suitors that have spoken with Serono, including Pfizer and Sanofi, are likely to incur too much scrutiny from antitrust authorities to make a deal attractive, the paper added, citing people close to the matter.

Sanofi declined to comment on the article, saying its policy was not to react to market rumors.

Buyers for Serono may be thin on the ground, analysts have said, questioning the company’s relatively scant pipeline of new drugs and pointing out a number of product setbacks.

“I don’t see the point. Every pharma company is looking for a pipeline which is interesting and for products in late-stage clinical development. Sanofi doesn’t want to buy infrastructure, they already have that,” Oliver Kaemmerer, analyst at WestLB said, referring to Serono’s pipeline.

Serono, best known for its multiple sclerosis product Rebif and a leader in infertility treatments, has a market value of more than $13 billion and would be a big chunk to swallow for anyone other than a big pharmaceutical company.

The Geneva-based company is 62 percent-owned by the Bertarelli family and is run by Chief Executive Ernesto Bertarelli.