CSL Tenders Offer to Buy Vifor Pharma for $11.7 Billion

Vifor_ © Vifor Pharma.

 © Vifor Pharma. 

It is now official. CSL announced Tuesday morning that it has begun the process to acquire Vifor Pharma, putting an end to rumors that had been escalating since the beginning of December.

The company, Australia’s fourth-largest overall, is paying top dollar for what it clearly believes is a top acquisition. The $179.25 (167 francs) per share offer equals an overall $11.7 billion, putting the price tag well above the $8 billion-plus projected in reports. The deal will be CSL’s largest to date.

If successfully finalized, the transaction will give CSL access to Vifor’s pipeline of treatments for iron deficiency, kidney and cardio-renal diseases. CSL will also get the keys to Vifor’s production sites in Switzerland and Portugal. Assets include vamifeport (VIT-2763), an oral ferroportin inhibitor being studied in diseases with ineffective production of red blood cells and iron overload conditions, such as beta-thalassemia or Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). On December 10, Vifor announced that the first patient had been enrolled in a Phase IIa clinical trial investigating vamifeport in adults with SCD.

CSL will also become the proud co-owners of Korsuva, the first and only FDA-approved therapy for the treatment of moderate-to-severe pruritus (itching) associated with chronic kidney disease in adults who are undergoing hemodialysis. Korsuva was approved in August, and Vifor, along with partner Cara Therapeutics, is gearing up for the therapy’s U.S. launch, which is expected to take place in Q1 2022.  The combined company will have 37 products in development, which is 32% more than CSL’s current pipeline.

The transaction also provides CSL with much-needed diversification, as blood plasma collections have gone down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Diversification could be wise, although it could lead to near-term de-rating until any potential synergies are evident to the market,” Morgan Stanley said in a note on December 2. CSL has said the market, which makes up nearly nine-tenths of its profits, has been improving.

“Vifor Pharma enhances CSL's patient focus and ability to protect the health of those facing a range of rare and serious medical conditions,” CSL Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Paul Perreault said in a statement.

“It brings an outstanding team and a leading portfolio of products across Nephrology, Dialysis and Iron Deficiency therapies and a proven partnering and business development and licensing strategy. Vifor Pharma will also expand our presence in the rapidly growing nephrology market, while giving us the opportunity to leverage our complementary scientific expertise.” He added that the acquisition offers CSL near-term value along with a clear path to long-term sustainable growth.

On the acquiree side, Vifor Chairman of the Board of Directors Jacques Theurillat said, “The offer provides an excellent strategic opportunity for Vifor Pharma to optimize future market opportunities from a position of strength and to create substantial value for all stakeholders.”

CSL has put a lot of effort into being a good corporate citizen of Australia. The company currently employs 1,800 people on Australian turf in R&D, manufacturing and other operations. The acquisition of Vifor, located in Glattbrugg, Switzerland, will add “more than 2,600 skilled and talented employees” to the team, Perreault said.

On Monday, in anticipation of a deal, Vifor’s share price rose to 136.75 Swiss francs, adding $1.2 billion to its market capitalization for a total of $9.60 billion (8.87 billion francs). In Tuesday morning trading, they rose another 14% to 160.5 francs.

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