Johnson & Johnson eyeing Crucell acquisition

J&J, which already owns a 17.9 per cent stake in vaccine maker Crucell, said on Friday its potential cash offer valued Crucell shares at €24.75, a 58 per cent premium to Thursday’s closing price. Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer have been flagged as possible, but unlikely, rival bidders for US biotech company Genzyme, the target of Sanofi-Aventis, so the bid may signal J&J is out of that race.

A Britain-based analyst who did not wish to be named said it would be “pretty unlikely” that Johnson & Johnson would bid for both Genzyme and Crucell at the same time. Crucell Chief Executive Ronald Brus said the potential deal with J&J, which does not have its own vaccine business, meant the world’s sixth-largest vaccine producer can accelerate its development programme. “With the help of Johnson & Johnson we can increase our reach throughout the world significantly,” Brus told reporters. “Together we feel we form a very strong team.” Brus said he intended to stay on and did not expect any lay-offs at Crucell, which produces vaccines against flu and childhood diseases and is developing products against yellow fever alongside research into tuberculosis and malaria vaccines.

Johnson & Johnson is a diversified group that makes prescription drugs as well as Tylenol pain relievers, Listerine mouth wash and Band-Aid adhesive bandages. Company veteran William Weldon has been chief executive since 2002. It bought its stake in Crucell, one of two major independent vaccine makers in Europe alongside Intercell, in September 2009 as part of a flu vaccine development deal. Crucell is on the cusp of sharp sales growth for its pediatric vaccine Quinvaxem.

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