New CEO says Shire on acquisition trail
The biotech was rumored to be a takeover target but aims to be a buyer instead.
By Barry S. Cohen
Shire's (SHPG) CEO-in-waiting Flemming Ornskov has some big shoes to fill, but it appears he's wasting no time making his impact on the pharmaceutical company based in Dublin, Ireland.
Ornskov recently hosted a little chit-chit with analysts in London and told the gathering that the company is engaged in some exciting acquisition talks.
That would be a switch. Shire has long been rumored a takeover target itself, with some in the industry suggesting the company would be a perfect addition for AstraZeneca (AZN). It appears the chased is planning to become the chaser.
Ornskov assumes the helm at Shirer on April 30, succeeding Angus Russell. Russell has served as CEO of the company for the past 13 years and is credited with building a little specialist company that was essentially reformulating medicines into a global biotech company, with a focus on rare diseases.
Ornskov comes to Shirer from Bayer, where he served as Chief Marketing Officer and Global Head, Strategic Marketing for General and Specialty Medicine from 2010 to 2012. His resume also includes stints a Bausch & Lomb, Merck (MRK) and Novartis (NVS).
During the London gathering, Ornskov made no mention of the company's interest or willingness to jump into the arms of a suitor. Instead, he said Shire is engaged in some exciting deal talks, a few of which are in an advanced stage. Not so advanced, however, that they're likely to be consummated this year. Perhaps the new CEO was being a bit cagey on the acquisition front, but he did say the company is shooting for double-digit sales growth over the longer term and is willing to expand into other businesses to achieve that. Will there be a deal or not?
Double-digit revenue gains would represent a vast improvement over what the company recently reported for the fourth quarter of 2012. Quarterly revenues increased 5% to $1,201 million driven by higher product sales and royalties. However, it was an 84% drop in earnings that caused investors to punish Shire shares when it released results on Feb. 14. The earnings decline was attributed to increased costs and generic competition for its attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug, Adderall XR.
During the past year, Shire's shares have declined about 9% while the index of large European pharmaceutical companies is up about 16%.
Shire got a new generic competitor for Adderrall XR this week when Teva (TEVA), the largest maker of generic medicines in the world, won FDA approval for its version of the drug. A copy sold by Actavis (ACT) created a double negative effect in 2012, when Shire lost sales and royalties from a version of the drug sold by Impax Laboratories (IPXL).
So it appears Dr. Ornskov has his work cut out for him at Shire. Still, several of the company's key products showed double-digit sales growth in the fourth quarter, and Shire continues to invest in its pipeline. In combination with a key acquisition or two, this might be enough to enable the new CEO to make as big a mark as his predecessor.
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