The latest Shire buyout rumor: An $18.9B bid for Actelion

Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov

Acquisitive drugmaker Shire ($SHGP) made a £12.4 billion ($18.9 billion) overture for Switzerland's Actelion, according to The Sunday Times, an offer that reportedly failed to entice the biotech's board.

Shire made its approach "several weeks ago," according to the Times' sources, who declined to be named. The offer presented a 20% premium to Actelion's share value at the time but was apparently too cheap for the biotech's taste. Actelion's shares jumped as much as 10% on the news, reaching an all-time high Monday morning as investors bet that Shire might come back with a richer offer.

For Shire, a bid for Actelion fits in with its penchant for writing big checks to flesh out its pipeline. Under CEO Flemming Ornskov's three-year tenure, the U.K. drugmaker has shelled out billions for firms large and small, highlighted by a $4.2 billion buyout of ViroPharma in 2013 and a $5.2 billion deal for NPS Pharma earlier this year.

And Actelion is in the midst of a surge. In April, the company raised its full-year projections thanks largely to the growth of Opsumit, Actelion's latest treatment for pulmonary hypertension. The company is expecting U.S. and European approval for the next-generation PAH treatment selexipag by year's end, and its pipeline also includes cadazolid, a treatment for Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, and ponesimod, in Phase III development for multiple sclerosis.

Actelion has long been a fixture in biopharma M&A rumors, but CEO Jean-Paul Clozel has repeatedly stated that the company considers itself more of a buyer than a target, and his CFO told Reuters in April that the firm was actively looking for deals of its own.

Meanwhile, Shire is pressing forward with a company-record 21 drugs in clinical development, building what Ornskov has said is its strongest pipeline ever. The company has moved on from AbbVie's ($ABBV) failed plot to buy the company for $55 billion last year, promising to boost its annual revenue to $10 billion a year by 2020 while keeping up its appetite for acquisitions.

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