Ablynx investor opens door to Novo deal at a higher price

Ablynx' caplacizumab vials
Ablynx's lead drug caplacizumab (Ablynx)

Ablynx’s largest shareholder is open to supporting a takeover by Novo Nordisk. The fund, Van Herk Investments, thinks Novo’s most recent offer was too low but will encourage Ablynx to enter talks if a sufficiently sweetened bid is received.

Novo put a €2.6 billion ($3.2 billion) takeover package to Ablynx late last year but failed to persuade the biotech’s board to open talks. When a CEO-to-CEO chat failed to break the deadlock, Novo went public with its plans. Since then, shares in Ablynx have hovered around the €35 mark, reflecting the fact that many see the bid as a lowball offer and expect Novo or a rival to return with a better package.

Van Herk, which owns 10.2% of Ablynx, initially kept its thoughts about the offer to itself. But Reuters now reports the investor agrees with Ablynx that the €30.50-a-share offer, €2.50 of which is in CVRs, undervalues the company. 

That dents any hopes of Van Herk leaning on Ablynx to help Novo seal a deal at something close to the current bid. But the investor offered some encouragement to Novo and potential counter-bidders, too. If someone makes a bid Van Herk thinks reflects the true value of Ablynx, it will encourage the biotech’s board to open talks. Van Herk kept mum about what it regards as a reasonable offer.

The investor also opened a potential line of communication between it and Novo. Van Herk is yet to talk to Novo, but it is open to doing so even before the Danish biopharma returns with an improved offer. 

Van Herk is one of a clutch of major Ablynx investors to dial up its stake in the biotech since Novo went public with its intentions. The move by Van Herk took its stake in the biotech above 10%. Bank of America, Consonance CapMan and Marshall Wace have also added to their holdings in recent weeks.