Horizon Therapeutics Fields Takeover Interest From Pharma Giants

Drugmaker Horizon Therapeutics PLC is fielding takeover interest, according to people familiar with the matter, as large pharmaceutical companies compete for fast-growing medicines to fuel sales.

A deal for Horizon, which develops medicines for rare and immune diseases, would be big. The company has a market value of almost $18 billion and, with a typical takeover premium, could fetch a price well over $20 billion.

Any tie-up, however, is uncertain and a deal may not emerge, the people said.

Horizon is Nasdaq-listed, but headquartered in Ireland and with operations in Dublin, Deerfield, Ill., and a new facility in Rockville, Md. It develops medicines to treat rare autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases that are currently sold mostly in the U.S. Its biggest drug, Tepezza, is used to treat thyroid eye disease, an affliction characterized by progressive inflammation and damage to tissues around the eyes.

Last year, revenue from the  product more than doubled, driving the company’s overall net sales 47% higher to $3.23 billion. Horizon said this month that annual global net sales of the drug are targeted to eventually peak at more than $4 billion as the company aims to win approval to sell it in Europe and Japan.

That type of growth is attractive to big pharmaceutical companies— with many sitting on big piles of cash—that rely on acquisitions as a key strategy to expand sales. Many big drugmakers are looking for new sources of revenue to offset losses when some of their main products lose patent protection.

This month, Johnson & Johnson struck a $16.6 billion deal to acquire heart-device maker

Abiomed Inc.

to bolster sales of its medical-gear division, which had been lagging those of its pharmaceutical unit.


& Co. followed that deal with its own, agreeing to buy blood-cancer biotech

Imago BioSciences Inc.

for $1.35 billion, ahead of the patent expiration of its cancer immunotherapy called Keytruda.

Pfizer Inc.,

meanwhile, agreed in August to buy Global Blood Therapeutics Inc. for $5.4 billion, in a deal that would give the big drugmaker a foothold in the treatment of sickle-cell disease.

Write to Ben Dummett at [email protected] and Laura Cooper at [email protected]

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