Genzyme, After Months of Holding Out, Agrees to be Sold to Sanofi-Aventis for $20.1B

Xconomy Boston — 

It’s been a long time coming, but the sale of Genzyme, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech company, to pharma giant Sanofi-Aventis for $20.1 billion marks a landmark moment in the biotech industry here in Boston and beyond. The deal puts Genzyme, the largest biotech company in Massachusetts, and the fate of 10,000 employees in new hands after a nearly 30-year run as an independent firm.

The deal, valued at $74 a share, is the biggest biotech acquisition ever in Boston’s biotech cluster, and one of the largest ever in the industry. The biggest came in March 2009 when Roche paid $46.8 billion to acquire the remaining 44 percent stake of South San Francisco-based Genentech that it didn’t already own.

Paris-based Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) said today it has acquired the world’s largest maker of rare disease drugs in a deal that includes the $74 per share in cash and additional compensation to shareholders for milestones primarily related to Genzyme’s experimental drug for multiple sclerosis, alemtuzumab (Lemtrada), which is already on the market for treating leukemia under the name Campath. The French drug maker initially went public with its desire to snap up Genzyme in August for $69 per share, a price that Genzyme officials and shareholders said was too low.

The boards of both companies have unanimously approved the merger, which is expected to close early in the second quarter of 2011. A component of the deal is that each shareholder will get what is called a contingent value right for each share of stock they own, and each CVR entitles them to up to $14 in milestone payments tied to alemtuzumab for MS and Genzyme reaching certain production levels for its top drugs imiglucerase (Cerezyme) and agalsidase beta (Fabrazyme) in 2011.

Genzyme has made as large an impact on the Boston-area biotech community as any company has. Led by long-time chairman and CEO Henri Termeer, the company pioneered the business of super-expensive medications for tiny populations of patients who have rare genetic illnesses such as Gaucher’s disease and Fabry disease. And the firm has been a breeding ground for executives who have gone on to take key posts at other biotechs. (We’ve covered several such firms, including On-Q-ity, Hydra Biosciences, and Pervasis Therapeutics.)

“It is sad to see one of the few large, stand alone, biotechnology organizations consumed by a large … Next Page »

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