Swedish Orphan Chief to Leave; Rooth to Be Interim CEO

Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB Chief Executive Officer Martin Nicklasson will leave the company Jan. 1 and the drugmaker will seek a replacement to help it bring new products to market.

Swedish Orphan Biovitrum is in the process of hiring a search firm and new chief executive may be in place in about six months, Chairman Bo Jesper Hansen said in a phone interview today. Kennet Rooth, the head of sales and marketing who had planned to step down, will serve as interim CEO, the Stockholm- based company said in a statement.

Swedish Orphan Biovitrum is seeking a new chief because the company is moving closer to filing for regulatory approval for two drugs to treat hemophilia and a product to promote growth in premature babies, Hansen said. The stock fell the most in a month in Stockholm.

“The board of directors initiated a dialogue with CEO Martin Nicklasson regarding the profile needed to match the next phase the company is entering into,” according to the statement. The board and Nicklasson “have jointly come to the conclusion that a new leadership is desired for the company going forward.”

Nicklasson, who also previously headed drug development at AstraZeneca, will evaluate “non-executive” opportunities, according to the statement. Swedish Orphan Biovitrum was formed in January when Biovitrum AB acquired Swedish Orphan International AB. Nicklasson was named CEO of Biovitrum in 2007.

‘Mutual Decision’

The decision was “absolutely a mutual decision on a friendly separation,” Hansen said. “Martin’s conclusion was, ‘Why don’t I step down and we’ll find a new person who can take this to the next step.’ It was completely undramatic.”

The change was unexpected, Patrik Ling, analyst at Nordea Bank, said in a phone interview. He has a “strong buy” rating on the shares.

Swedish Orphan Biovitrum fell 2.4 percent to 39.90 kronor at the 5:30 p.m. close of trading in Stockholm, giving the company a market value of 8.5 billion kronor ($1.2 billion). The decline was the biggest since Oct. 27. The shares have risen 44 percent this year, compared with a 7.5 percent return for the Bloomberg Europe Pharmaceutical Index.

Third-quarter sales fell 5 percent, hurt by government austerity measures in Europe, the company said Oct. 26. Swedish Orphan lowered its full-year sales and profit forecast.

Investor AB, the holding company of Sweden’s Wallenberg family, owns 40 percent of the company’s shares.

Biogen Idec Inc. is Swedish Orphan’s partner on the hemophilia treatments. One is in the third and final stage of clinical trials usually needed for regulatory approval, and the other is about to begin the final phase. Kiobrina, the treatment for premature infants, also is about to begin the final stages of testing.

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