Celltrion Jumps to Record on AstraZeneca Takeover Bid Report

Celltrion Inc. jumped to a record in Seoul trading on speculation the South Korean maker of biological drugs may be bought by AstraZeneca Plc.

Celltrion shares rose by the daily limit of 15 percent to 65,400 won, the highest since the stock began trading in 2005, and giving the company a market value of 6.6 trillion won ($5.9 billion). Executives at Incheon-based Celltrion have contacted various global companies about a possible sale since April and are in talks with the U.K. drugmaker, Seoul-based Financial News reported today, citing investment bankers it didn’t name.

Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung Jin plans to sell his stake in Celltrion and two affiliates to a “multinational” pharmaceutical company, the drugmaker said in an e-mailed statement in April, without giving further details.

AstraZeneca doesn’t comment on market speculation, spokeswoman Ayesha Bharmal said by phone in London today. Celltrion spokesman Kim Joon Seok also declined to comment on the Financial News report.

AstraZeneca has been scouting small to mid-sized acquisitions as its best-selling drugs face generic competition. Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said he would pursue deals of $3 billion to $4 billion and would consider larger ones if they were a good fit. Celltrion was one of two companies to win European backing in June to sell the first copies of Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade, a $6 billion therapy for arthritis.

AstraZeneca is looking to add products in the core areas of respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular and metabolic illnesses, and cancer. It announced today that it would pay as much as $815 million plus possible royalties to license an anemia drug from FibroGen Inc. The companies will test the treatment in patients with chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease in late-phase trials in the U.S. and China.

AstraZeneca is also preparing a bid for Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., which would give it cancer medicines including blood cancer treatment Kyprolis, two people familiar with the matter said this month.

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