Johnson & Johnson said to be considering potential Actelion acquisition: report

According to people familiar with the matter, Johnson & Johnson has approached Actelion with an initial offer regarding a possible takeover, Bloomberg reported Thursday. The sources said negotiations are still in the early stage, and Actelion is exploring its options with an adviser, but any discussions between the companies may not lead to a transaction. Representatives for both Johnson & Johnson and Actelion declined to comment on the speculation. 

Actelion has frequently been rumoured as a potential acquisition target, although CEO Jean-Paul Clozel has said the company preferred to remain independent. Still, one of the sources cited in the Bloomberg report suggested Clozel may now be more likely to consider a sale if a sufficient premium was offered. 

Shire reportedly made an informal bid for Actelion last year worth about 12.4 billion pounds ($15.4 billion), which the Swiss drugmaker was said to have rejected, and Shire has not since returned with a second offer. Meanwhile, Actelion confirmed in September 2015 that it had opened preliminary discussions to acquire ZS Pharma, although the latter was eventually bought out by AstraZeneca for $2.7 billion (for related analysis, see ViewPoints: Investors left unimpressed by Actelion's own M&A aspirations and Spotlight On Interview: Actelion CEO Jean-Paul Clozel on what the future holds for Europe's most successful biotech company). 

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Actelion is seeking to reduce its reliance on sales of the pulmonary hypertension (PAH) drug Tracleer (bosentan), which faces generic competition in the first quarter of 2017. Analysts estimate that the company's next-generation PAH therapy Opsumit (macitentan) will surpass sales of $1 billion next year, while its latest PAH drug Uptravi (selexipag), which was approved in the US and Europe within the last year, is forecast to cross the $1-billion mark in 2019. 

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson's chief financial officer Dominic Caruso indicated last month during its quarterly results presentation that the company is "wide open to do good transactions at the right price at the right time," adding that pharmaceuticals continues to be its strongest unit. 

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