Celltrion Says AstraZeneca Stake Report Inaccurate: Seoul Mover

Celltrion Inc. fell from a record in Seoul trading after the South Korean drugmaker said newspaper reports yesterday it may be bought by AstraZeneca Plc. contain inaccurate information.

Celltrion shares slumped by daily limit of 15 percent to 55,600 won at the close in Seoul, its biggest loss since April 22, after surging by the same amount yesterday. Celltrion is in final talks with AstraZeneca over a controlling stake sale, South Korea’s Financial News newspaper reported yesterday, citing investment bankers it didn’t name.

Newspaper reports about a stake sale to AstraZeneca are inaccurate, Incheon-based Celltrion said in a statement on its website late yesterday. The company is discussing a stake sale with its financial adviser JPMorgan Chase & Co. and no details have been decided, according to the statement, which didn’t say whether Celltrion is in talks with AstraZeneca.

“The stock erased gains today as the company’s denied the rumors,” Cho Seung Yeon, head of research at LIME Investment Management Co. in Seoul, said by phone today. An acquisition may take more time because the company’s biosimilar products have only recently received authorization for sales in Europe, he said.

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.

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 yesterday.

Generic Competition

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.

AstraZeneca is looking to add products in the core areas of respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular and metabolic illnesses, and cancer. It announced yesterday 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.

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