Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Novartis Is Said to Eye Deal for Radioactive-Drug Maker AAA

Updated on
  • Radiopharmaceutical company may attract other suitors
  • Novartis is said to have approached AAA, held discussions

Novartis AG is considering a deal for radiopharmaceutical company Advanced Accelerator Applications SA as the giant Swiss drugmaker seeks acquisitions to boost growth, according to people familiar with the matter.

Novartis has approached AAA, as the company is known, about a deal and held talks, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. AAA could also attract interest from other drugmakers, the people said. No deal has been reached and talks may fall apart, the people said.

AAA’s American depositary receipts surged 7 percent to $63.96 at 9:35 a.m. in New York. The ADRs had more than doubled this year through Wednesday’s close, valuing AAA at about $2.6 billion. Novartis shares rose 0.4 percent to 82.75 Swiss francs, bringing their gain for the year to 12 percent.

Representatives for Novartis and AAA declined to comment.

AAA makes radiopharmaceuticals, or radioactive drugs, used to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer. Italian academics founded the company in 2002 as a spinoff of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN. AAA is based in Saint-Genis-Pouilly, a French town just outside Geneva.

The company counts 21 production and research and development sites. It employs more than 530 people in 13 countries.

Asset Hunt

Novartis is hunting for assets to bolster its businesses in areas from cancer to cardiovascular disease. The company also faces decisions on the future of its ailing Alcon eye-care business and its stake in crosstown rival Roche Holding AG.

Novartis this month announced the surprise departure of Chief Executive Officer Joseph Jimenez after eight years at the helm of Europe’s largest drugmaker, handing off the challenge of selling underperforming assets and developing new medicines to Vasant Narasimhan, a Harvard-trained doctor.

Novartis has announced more than $30 billion in deals over the past four years, the largest being its 2015 acquisition of GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s oncology portfolio for as much as $16 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Jimenez has previously said the company is focusing on potential acquisitions of $2 billion to $5 billion. The company has hired Keren Haruvi Snir from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. as its head of mergers and acquisitions, people familiar with the matter have said.

AAA’s ADRs have surged this year as European Union regulators recommended approval of the company’s Lutathera treatment for neuroendocrine tumors. AAA sold the receipts at $16 each in a U.S. initial public offering in 2015. The company’s second-biggest shareholder after Fidelity Investments is HBM Healthcare Investments AG, a publicly traded Swiss investment fund that bought a stake before the IPO.

— With assistance by Ed Hammond, and Cynthia Koons

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