Report: Alexion allies with Goldman as Roche buyout rumor blazes

If Roche ($RHHBY) actually comes through with a $22 billion-plus bid for Alexion ($ALXN), the biotech intends to be ready to man the defenses and fight it out for top dollar. Quoting sources, Bloomberg reports that Alexion, which swelled in value after turning Soliris into a blockbuster, has retained Goldman Sachs to advise the company on any buyout deal--or help repel a hostile takeover. The move came after Roche reportedly made an informal overture last week which was quickly rebuffed.

The report helped buoy Alexion's hefty stock price, which surged more than 6% as its market cap scraped the $23 billion mark. Goldman Sachs already has a close working relationship with Alexion after helping in the acquisitions of Enobia--for up to $1 billion--and Taligen.

Roche paid twice Alexion's current market value to obtain all the shares of Genentech it didn't already own. And while it's been aggressive on the diagnostics side of the business, Roche has also made it clear that it won't pay huge premiums for a takeover. Some analysts are already arguing that Alexion's share price could make any deal too expensive. But Bloomberg's sources indicate that Roche is undaunted, lured by Alexion's record price for Soliris as well as a promising late-stage program for asfotase alfa--an enzyme replacement therapy for extremely rare cases of a metabolic disease known as hypophosphatasia--which was recently awarded the FDA's "breakthrough" drug designation. And persistent rumors continue to abound that Roche has been casting its net in search of the cash needed to complete a deal.

Genentech has proven to be a rich source of new products for Roche as its gRED ops have consistently earned kudos for groundbreaking work. But as gRED flourished, the Basel-based pRED group floundered, lurching from one disaster to the next as Roche looked for new drugs outside of oncology to help beef up revenue.

Days ago Roche killed off the diabetes drug aleglitazar, which flunked a Phase III study. The dalcetrapib disaster last year forced Roche to reorganize its R&D division, spurring the pharma giant to shutter its pRED campus in Nutley, NJ, while relying on gRED in California to shepherd new cancer drugs. And taspoglutide was offed in 2011. Roche's best bet at diversifying its pipeline may now rest at the bargaining table.

Whatever is going on behind the scenes, none of the principals is throwing cold water on these red-hot takeover rumors. None of the companies would directly confirm or deny Bloomberg's report.

- here's the story from Bloomberg

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