France's Sanofi to buy biotech firm Synthorx for $2.5 billion

ParisUpdated: Dec 09, 2019, 05:02 PM IST

File Photo: The logo of Sanofi is seen at the company's research and production centre in Vitry-sur-Seine, France Photograph:(Reuters)

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Sanofi expects to complete the acquisition in the first quarter of 2020

France's Sanofi on Monday agreed to buy California-headquartered biotechnology firm Synthorx in a cash deal worth about $2.5 billion as it steps up a push in the lucrative field of cancer drugs under its new chief executive.

Sanofi has offered to buy all the outstanding shares of Synthorx common stock for $68 per share in cash, or a 172 per cent premium to Synthorx's closing price on December 6, 2019.

"This acquisition fits perfectly with our strategy to build a portfolio of high-quality assets and to lead with innovation, as you will hear at our Capital Markets Day tomorrow, December 10," Sanofi Chief Executive Paul Hudson said in a statement.

"Additionally it is aligned with our goal to build our oncology franchise with potentially practice-changing medicines and novel combinations."

Synthorx, which posted a 2018 net loss of $56.6 million, is a clinical-stage biotech company focused on therapies for people with cancer and auto-immune disorders, according to the company's website.

Sanofi expects to complete the acquisition in the first quarter of 2020.

By 0946 GMT, Sanofi shares were down 0.7 per cent at 82.94 euros.

"The acquisition price is full at a 172 per cent premium to Synthorx December 6 close price and is a lot to pay for an early-stage pipeline (lead drug THOR-707 is in phase 1 trial," Liberum analysts said in a note.

Sanofi is conducting a broad strategy review under Hudson, who took over as CEO on September 1. He will give initial pointers on which businesses he wants to focus on at the investor day in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 10.

Hudson has indicated significant changes were underway.

"I am bringing a little sense of urgency and prioritisation. I have set a tone already that we can move a little bit faster," Hudson told reporters in October.

"I think we have the right level of resources although perhaps not always in the right place."

Sources have told Reuters Sanofi was contemplating a joint venture or an outright sale among options for its consumer healthcare unit.

In an early sign of the new strategy, Sanofi last week agreed to sell its Seprafilm unit to medical supply company Baxter International for $350 million in cash.

Sanofi also told staff its most senior strategy boss, Muzammil Mansuri, would leave, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.