InterMune Said to Draw Bids From Sanofi to Roche in Biotech Sale

Aug 13, 2014 7:01 pm ET

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Some of Europe’s biggest drugmakers, including Sanofi and Roche Holding AG, are among bidders for U.S. biotechnology company InterMune Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said.

Also bidding for Brisbane, California-based InterMune are GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Actelion Ltd., said the people, asking not to be identified because the process is private. Sanofi has so far shown the most interest in a deal, one person said.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Centerview Partners LLC are helping InterMune sort through bids for the business, the people said. InterMune rose 14 percent to $52.06 yesterday in New York, giving the company a market value of $5.62 billion.

Large drugmakers are targeting biotechnology companies as they seek to build up their drug pipelines. About $6.2 billion of such deals have been struck this year, data compiled by Bloomberg show, nearly twice the value for all of 2013. Merck & Co. agreed to buy Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc. for about $3.58 billion in June, adding the drugmaker’s hepatitis C treatments to its portfolio.

Representatives for InterMune, Sanofi, Actelion, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, and Goldman Sachs declined to comment. Representatives for Centerview couldn’t be reached.

Widening Losses

InterMune is developing a medicine for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, a lung-scarring disease without a cure whose cause is unknown. Last week it reported a wider-than-estimated second-quarter loss. Sales of the drug pirfenidone, also known as Esbriet, more than doubled to $35.7 million in the second quarter from $14.4 million a year earlier. It is approved in Europe and not yet in the U.S.

Ahead of yesterday’s gains, shares in the company had more than tripled this year on investor optimism that pirfenidone is moving closer to U.S. regulatory approval. The stock has also been boosted by takeover reports.

IPF has been diagnosed in about 128,100 people in the U.S. and 40,000 die each year from it, according to the Culver City, California-based Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis. The disease scars the lungs and destroys their ability to carry oxygen. There is no FDA-approved treatment for the disease and most people die within 3 to 5 years of diagnosis, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Successful clinical trial results in May showed pirfenidone slowed the progression of the disease and reduced mortality, according to results published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The drug was designated as a breakthrough therapy by the FDA on July 17 and will receive an expedited review.

--With assistance from Simeon Bennett and Albertina Torsoli in Geneva and Drew Armstrong and Marie French in New York.