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Achillion Is in Talks With Potential Buyers or Partners

Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc., expecting clinical data on three experimental hepatitis C therapies, is in “advanced discussions” with potential partners and acquirers, Chief Executive Officer Michael Kishbauch said. The shares jumped 8.2 percent.

If the results, due about year’s end, are positive, “we become a probable ‘transactable’ company,” Kishbauch said yesterday in an interview at the Achillion’s headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. “We’re prepared to be patient and pick the best deal.”

Licensing deals, asset sales or selling the entire company are all possibilities, Kishbauch said. Achillion doesn’t have any products on the market. The board’s preference would be for “simplicity,” he said, referring to a full sale.

“The nature of discussions suggests that’s most likely,” he said. The question is timing, as Achillion plans to have data on a combination of hepatitis C therapies by the middle of 2013. “Theoretically the value of the company is increasing” as those results approach, he said.

Achillion rose 44 cents to $5.84 at the close of trading in New York, for the biggest gain since Oct. 27. The shares have gained 41 percent this year.

The company had a market value earlier today of about $370 million, and could command double that in a sale, said Y. Katherine Xu, an analyst with William Blair & Co. in New York.

Awaiting Data

Data on the three experimental medicines would provide a “definitive point for people who want to take a look at the assets,” Xu said in a telephone interview today. Potential suitors may include GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Novartis AG, drugmakers that have interest in hepatitis C, with programs too early in development to be competitive, Xu said.

“They’re kind of losing the game and they have to do something,” Xu said. Achillion’s medicines “could be competitive. We just don’t know the data yet.”

“We don’t comment on rumors and speculation,” Eric Althoff, a spokesman for Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis, said by phone today. David Daley, a spokesman for Glaxo in London, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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