Analysts abuzz over rumors that Takeda may acquire Nycomed
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


TOKYO—As we've already noted in our April issue, Japanese pharma and biotech companies seem increasingly keen on acquiring companies abroad to increase their global footprints, and now comes word from sources close to Takeda Pharmaceutical that the Tokyo- based company is in discussions to acquire Swiss rival Nycomed for something in the neighborhood of $11 billion to $14 billion.  
Nycomed is considered by many to be a good target for Takeda because it would allow the Japanese company, known for its diabetes and heart disease therapies, greater reach into developing markets and—with Nycomed's products for heartburn and smokers' cough—to increase its product offerings as well and offset the threat of generic competition. One of the notable drugs would be lung-disease drug Daxas, recently approved in the United States, as well as a range of over-the-counter consumer drugs.  
"The suggested price looks high, but in the sector M&A is starting to happen and there are not enough companies to buy," notes Tero Weckroth, analyst with Kepler Capital Markets, adding that "mid-cap pharma is a real sweetspot for M&A."  
"The continued strength of the Japanese yen in the global economy, fast-approaching generic pressures and a strong strategic rationale all contribute to the validity of this rumored deal," says John Shortmoor, a pharmaceutical company analyst at Datamonitor. "This would be the largest acquisition in Takeda's history, surpassing the $8.8 billion purchase of Millennium."  
A merger with Nycomed would be a deviation from the recent M&A strategy exhibited by Japan's number-one ranked drug manufacturer, Shortmoor admits, with Takeda having been active in deal-making that has been focused largely on obtaining intellectual property in the biotech and oncology sectors. The acquisition of Millennium, which added the drug Velcade, is one example of this.  
"However, while Takeda's larger acquisitions have followed a firm therapeutic route, it has also steadily utilized its strong cash position to gain development and commercial rights for products specifically in the European markets," Shortmoor notes. "It is in this context that an acquisition of Nycomed would fit well with Takeda's corporate strategy; the day before the rumor emerged, Takeda's president Yasuchika Hasegawa reaffirmed the company's desire to grow its commercial footprint in the emerging markets, naming Russia, India and Brazil as key targets to this end. Of course, while this may have served as a trigger for the Nycomed speculation, with Russia and Brazil being two of the many unique territories where the Swiss-headquartered Nycomed operates, there are other strategic and financial indicators that would support such a deal."
Or, as Credit Suisse analyst Fumiyoshi Sakai has put more succinctly in comments to the media: "Takeda has to survive as a global player. It's not in a position to go backwards."  
Analysts have also noted that Nycomed is well- positioned to deliver result in emerging markets, which made up almost two-fifths of its revenue in 2010 and are projected to account for as much as 60 percent of sales by 2015.  
Takeda and Nycomed have declined any kind of comment on the deal, and the unnamed sources admit that the process of bringing such a deal to fruition could take a while.  
Nycomed has more than 12,000 employees and spans numerous nations, with four European and Indian research and development centers, 15 production facilities and two joint ventures.  
Shortmoor notes that the expanded global footprint would be important, as Takeda's current business model relies predominately on commercial activities in the current major markets. The U.S. and Japan markets alone account for more than 75 percent of Takeda's total prescription pharma sales.  
Not that Nycomed represents the company's only opportunity for global expansion, of course. Takeda is readying itself to launch 11 new drug entities in the five main European markets—France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom—and the rest of world over the next six years, "greatly enhancing its commercial potential beyond its core U.S. and Japanese markets," Shortmoor says.  
Based on today 's exchange rates, with the Yen and Euro having both strengthened significantly against the U.S. dollar, bringing Nycomed into the fold would elevate Takeda into the top 10 in the global prescription pharmaceutical rankings for the first time, Shortmoor says, "leaping ahead of leading biotech company Amgen and Israeli generics giant Teva and putting it on a par with major U.S. drug companies J&J, Abbott, Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Moreover, Takeda will leave its nearest Japanese peers Daiichi Sankyo and Astellas trailing behind."
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