ViroPharma Said to Hire Goldman Amid Sanofi Interest

ViroPharma Inc., a producer of drugs that treat rare diseases, has attracted interest from suitors including European drugmakers Sanofi and Shire Plc, said people with knowledge of the process. ViroPharma’s shares surged.

ViroPharma began working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on a possible auction after fielding an unsolicited approach, said the people, who asked not to be named because talks are private. Goldman Sachs has actively sought other suitors for the Exton, Pennsylvania-based drugmaker since then, said one person. ViroPharma’s market value was about $2 billion before Bloomberg’s report.

The world’s top pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have pursued acquisitions this year as they seek new drugs to replace products whose patents are expiring. After Amgen Inc.’s agreement to buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $10.4 billion in August, the value of deals in the two sectors has risen 14 percent from a year earlier to more than $70 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

ViroPharma shares gained 28 percent to $39.13 at the close in New York, the biggest single-day increase since August 2005. Representatives at Sanofi, ViroPharma, Shire and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Sales at ViroPharma rose almost 10 percent in the second quarter to $103.7 million, bolstered by its treatment Cinryze, which treats hereditary angioedema, an inflammatory condition. The company may report third-quarter results next month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Strategic Fit

Sanofi has been expanding into treatments of rare diseases since its 2010 acquisition of Genzyme Inc. for $19.6 billion. Cinryze, a rare-disease therapy, may fit Sanofi’s strategy.

Shire also develops treatments for rare illnesses such as Fabry disease, which is an enzyme deficiency that can lead to kidney failure, heart problems or stroke. Shire also produces Firazyr for hereditary angioedema.

If a company with a sales force for hereditary angioedema drugs such as Shire acquires ViroPharma, the synergies would give the company a future value of $52 a share, Robyn Karnauskas, a Deutsche Bank analyst, said today in a note to clients. If an acquirer doesn’t have such a drug, ViroPharma may be valued at about $46 a share, Karnauskas said.

ViroPharma is testing an experimental treatment, maribavir, for Cytomegalovirus, a form of herpes that affects patients whose immune systems are compromised due to other diseases or treatments used during transplant procedures. Maribavir has a 50 percent probability of coming to market, Karnauskas wrote.

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