Small U.S. drugmaker Relypsa (RLYP) announced early Thursday that it had agreed to be acquired by Switzerland’s Galenica for $1.53 billion in cash, or $32 a share, sending its stock soaring.
Galenica said it will merge Relypsa with its drug unit Vifor Pharma, which in turn has joint ownership with dialysis giant Fresenius Medical (FMS) in Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma to develop treatments for kidney disease. Relypsa’s sole marketed drug, Veltassa, treats high blood potassium in patients with kidney disease. Last August, Vifor Fresenius acquired rights to market it outside the U.S. and Japan.
“This acquisition will give Vifor Pharma direct access to the key U.S. market, enabling us to maximize the potential of our compelling product portfolio and enhancing our growing attraction as an international partner of choice,” Galenica Executive Chairman Etienne Jornod said in a statement.
Relypsa stock finished the day up 59% on the stock market today, to 31.95, at a high not seen since nearly a year ago.
Buyout speculation has buzzed around Relypsa since British big pharma AstraZeneca (AZN) said it would acquire Relypsa’s chief rival, ZS Pharma, for $2.7 billion last November. In May, AstraZeneca’s potential Veltassa competitor, ZS-9, hit an unexpected roadblock when the FDA declined to approve it until the company resolves its manufacturing issues.
“We do not expect a bidding war over this asset, even though the takeout value of $1.53 billion is significantly below the $2.7 billion takeout price for ZS Pharma,” wrote Mizuho Securities analyst Irina Koffler in a research note. “Veltassa requires significant promotional investment, and its launch is still in its early stages, with little visibility into meaningful increases in physician demand (as evidenced by a small 11% month-over-month uptick in monthly free kits from 1,385 in May to 1,531 in June).”
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