Ipsen to Step Up Deal-Making, Scout for New Cancer Products

  • CEO De Garidel mined JPMorgan conference for opportunities
  • Two, three transactions worth up to EU300 million most likely

Ipsen SA Chief Executive Officer Marc de Garidel says the French drugmaker needs to clinch more deals to beef up its stable of products in areas such as digestive cancers -- and he tapped an industry conference last week to mingle with potential partners.

The company, based in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, has 200 million euros ($217 million) in cash and could easily raise an additional 600 million euros for potential transactions, de Garidel said in an interview last Thursday at the JPMorgan Chase & Co. health conference in San Francisco.

“We know we must do a few deals,” he said, giving a time frame of about two years. Ipsen is more likely to seek two or three transactions worth 200 million euros to 300 million euros each rather than a single larger one, “which would put us in trouble if it went badly and this was the only thing we had bet on,” de Garidel said.

De Garidel has narrowed Ipsen’s focus to peptides and disease-causing toxins since taking over. The CEO has trimmed costs, restructured French primary care operations and expanded in the U.S. At the San Francisco conference, the industry’s biggest annual gathering for investors and companies, he figures he held about 40 meetings to scout for potential partnerships, licensing deals and small acquisitions.

Familiar Territory

The company, which makes a rival product to Allergan Plc’s wrinkle smoother Botox, is looking for products targeting diseases it already addresses -- such as tumors of the gastro-intestinal tract and the pancreas, which Ipsen treats with Somatuline. It may also look for another prostate-cancer therapy that could fit with its own Decapeptyl and would consider growing in some orphan diseases. Ipsen is likely to focus more on Europe and the U.S., and would like to find new products to introduce by 2019 or 2020, the CEO said.

The recent stock market declines in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries may work in Ipsen’s favor as companies find that funding opportunities dry up, de Garidel said.

“From the preliminary negotiations we started having, our sense is that the balance of power may be tilting,” he said. “In the past, when we met with U.S. companies and tried to get U.S. rights to their therapies, they would tell us it was impossible. Now they tell us it will be hard, but not impossible.”

Ipsen shares have returned 24 percent over the past year including reinvested dividends, giving the French drugmaker a market value of 4.54 billion euros.

France’s Beaufour family, which controls Ipsen, has no plans to sell, the CEO said.

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