Novo Nordisk got beat out on one of the first big healthcare deals of the year -- here's what the CEO is still looking for in an acquisition

  • Novo Nordisk in January came out with a $US3.1 billion bid for Belgian biotech Ablynx, one of the first signs of M&A in a now-busy year.
  • Novo was ultimately beaten out by rival Sanofi, which acquired Ablynx for $US4.8 billion.
  • Novo CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told Business Insider that the company is still on the lookout for deals in the $US2-3 billion range.

2018 is shaping up to be a big year for deals in the pharmaceutical industry.

In the month of January alone, there was a total of $US27.5 billion worth of deals, including a $US9 billion deal for a cancer drugmaker and a bidding war for Belgian biotech Ablynx.

Diabetes drugmaker Novo Nordisk ultimately lost that bidding war over Ablynx to rival Sanofi, leaving it to look elsewhere. Sanofi came out with an offer that was close to $US2 billion more than what Novo had offered. It’s consistent with the other biotech deals that unfolded in January that gave companies high valuations.

“The current environment makes it harder to justify the acquisitions, but that’s just the part of the work you have to do to make sure we improve the value and stay disciplined,” Novo CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told Business Insider. Novo reported earnings on Thursday and fell short on operating profit, citing pressure on drug prices.

But that doesn’t mean Novo’s out of the game. The hope is to find smaller deals in the $US2 billion to $US3 billion range to add to the company’s diabetes, hematology, or orphan disease areas rather than a mega-merger.

“We continue to evaluate what’s out there, and we have already some dialogues ongoing,” Jorgensen said.

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