Denmark’s Novo Nordisk woos Belgian nano-drug maker

Denmark's Novo Nordisk, the world's leading insulin manufacturer, announced Monday an offer to buy the Belgian biotech firm Ablynx for 2.6 billion euros.

Denmark's Novo Nordisk woos Belgian nano-drug maker
File photo: Stine Tidsvilde/Polfoto/Ritzau

Novo Nordisk said it made an initial offer in December and then raised it, but that it had been rejected by Ablynx's management.

“Novo Nordisk encourages Ablynx's Board of Directors to engage in a negotiated transaction for the benefit of all stakeholders,” the Danish firm said in a statement.

The initial offer of 26.75 euros in cash was raised to 28 euros per share in cash plus up to another 2.50 euros per share depending on performance.

Ablynx said in a statement that its board “concluded that the proposal fundamentally undervalues Ablynx and its strong prospects for continued growth…”

Ablynx specialises in the development of nanobodies: small fragments of antibodies that like larger antibodies can bind onto the antigens that cause an immune system response.

Novo Nordisk said its strong global haematology franchise would make it able to better develop one of those nanobodies, caplacizumab, which aims to treat a certain type of blood clots.

It called its buyout offer a “compelling opportunity and provides the clearest path to realizing full potential of Ablynx's portfolio in the best interests of all stakeholders, including patients and physicians.”

The offer is the largest ever by Novo Nordisk for another pharmaceutical firm, according to Bloomberg News. The firm accounts for nearly half of the global market for insulin, but is also present in other sectors such as hormone treatments and drugs to control haemophilia.

Its shares were down a quarter of a percent in trading on the Copenhagen stock exchange at 339.10 kroner.

Shares in Ablynx were suspended on Monday morning in Brussels at the request of the market regulator.

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Novo Nordisk sees increased profits despite pandemic

Denmark's Novo Nordisk, the world's number one producer of insulin, on Wednesday reported an eight percent bump to net profits in 2020 despite the pandemic leading to a drop in new patients.

Novo Nordisk sees increased profits despite pandemic
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

In line with analysts' expectations, the company recorded an annual net profit of 42.1 billion Danish kroner (5.6 billion euros).

Revenue came in at 126.9 billion kroner, up four percent compared to a year earlier, not counting currency effects, driven by sales of GLP-1 products for treating diabetes.

According to Novo Nordisk, the company claimed 47.2 percent of the global market for insulin in November 2020, and 39.4 percent of the US market, which is the drugmaker's single largest market.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that there are over 425 million diabetics in the world, a number expected to top 629 million by 2045 as changing diets and lifestyles provoke the condition whereby the effectiveness of naturally produced insulin is reduced and people cannot convert sugar in their bloodstream for use as energy, causing health problems such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.

However, only half of people with diabetes are currently diagnosed and of those only half are receiving treatment, according to the IDF, which says an estimated four million people die from the disease and the health complications it causes every year.

The Covid-19 pandemic cut into the number of people receiving help, according to Novo Nordisk.

“During the period of social distancing implemented in many markets, fewer new patients are initiating treatment,” said the company.

Novo Nordisk also develops and markets treatments for haemophilia and growth disorders, where sales fell by four percent and increased by six percent respectively, not counting currency effects.

Sales of its anti-obesity medicines, mainly Saxenda, increased by three percent.

In 2021, Novo Nordisk expects sales to grow by five to nine percent and operating profit to increase by four to eight percent.

In the early hours of trading on the Copenhagen stock exchange, shares in Novo Nordisk were up 4.6 percent.

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