Johnson & Johnson snaps up Swiss biotech firm in $30bn deal

26 Jan 2017

Johnson & Johnson. Image: Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine/Flickr

In an all-cash $30bn move, US healthcare company Johnson & Johnson is acquiring the Switzerland-based biotech company Actelion.

Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest healthcare giant, is not resting on its laurels after a profit warning was issued earlier this week, swooping in to snap up a major competitor in Europe.

Costing $30bn in cash, the deal to acquire Actelion will help Johnson & Johnson diversify its drug portfolio, thanks to the former’s high-margin medicines for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

Actelion’s products are “highly complementary” to Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen arm, according to the company, with the acquisition also providing for the retention of Actelion’s Swiss presence.

The deal includes a spin-off of Actelion’s R&D plans, creating a wholly separate Swiss biopharma company called R&D NewCo, looking at drug discovery operations and early-stage clinical development.

“We believe this transaction offers compelling value,” said Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson. “Actelion has built an attractive, growing business with world-class commercial and clinical development capabilities.

“Adding Actelion’s portfolio to our already strong Janssen Pharmaceuticals business is a unique opportunity for us to expand our portfolio with leading, differentiated in-market medicines and promising late-stage products,” he said.

On Tuesday (24 January), Johnson & Johnson forecast lower-than-predicted 2017 profit, blaming currency impacts on its operations. The warning appeared to precede a drawn-out process of purchasing Actelion, though the opposite has proved true.

R&D NewCo will be run by Actelion founder Jean-Paul Clozel and chairman Pierre Garnier.

“In making this offer, Johnson & Johnson is recognising all that has been created at Actelion during the last 20 years and, in particular, the quality of our PAH franchise, the potential of our key marketed medicines and our promising late-stage development assets,” said Clozel.

“The newly created R&D company allows us to continue with our successful culture of innovation. It is enormously exciting to continue to develop new and differentiated products, in multiple therapeutic areas, to improve the lives of patients.”

Johnson & Johnson. Image: Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine/Flickr 

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic