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J&J bows out of Horizon bid as Amgen and Sanofi eye cash plays for rare disease drugmaker

The battle to absorb rare disease drugmaker Horizon Therapeutics will be waged with cash.

That was the message from interested bidders Sanofi and Amgen, at least, which issued separate statements this week on the heels of Horizon’s confirmation that buyout interest is booming.

Complying with Irish takeover rules, Amgen alerted the London Stock Exchange Friday that “any offer by Amgen for Horizon is, or is likely to be, solely in cash.” Naturally, the company caveated that there can “be no certainty” an offer will materialize.

Sanofi, too, will pitch its bid “solely in cash,” according to a press release sent out Friday.

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit, also a reported agent in the M&A war for the maker of eye drug Tepezza and gout therapy Krystexxa, had not made a statement as of Friday.

By Saturday the company confirmed in a press release ” it does not intend to make an offer for Horizon.” That said, the J&J unit pointed out that it “reserves the right within the next six months to set aside this statement,” suggesting it could offer a bid in the future.

It remains unclear exactly how much Horizon could make from a sale. In a note Wednesday, Cowen analysts said they think a transaction will take place. They suggested it would be reasonable to expect a minimum per-share price above Horizon’s all-time high of about $120 and potentially closer to Cowen’s price target of $140.

Horizon confirmed Tuesday that it had been in “highly preliminary” talks with the trio of Big Pharma suitors. The company cautioned that a deal may not happen in the end, adding that there’s no guarantee a potential bidder would aim to take over the entire company, either.

In making the talks public, Horizon has put pressure on its suitors, thanks to Irish securities rules, which now require Amgen, J&J and Sanofi to decide whether to make an offer by Jan. 10.

Interest in Horizon is likely to center on Tepezza and Krystexxa and—to a lesser extent— neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder treatment Uplizna, the Cowen team added in its note.

In 2021, Horizon telegraphed its aim to reach peak annual sales of $10 billion, compared with $3.4 billion in 2021.

In early November, the drugmaker raised its peak sales projection for Tepezza by $500 million to more than $4 billion. For peak U.S. sales of Krystexxa, Horizon now expects to garner more than $1.5 billion.