World and Nation

Sanofi-Aventis offers $18.5 billion for Genzyme, a near-hostile bid

Sanofi-Aventis, the French drugmaker, publicly disclosed its $18.5 billion bid for Genzyme on Sunday, intensifying pressure on the U.S. biotechnology company to engage in discussions about a sale.

Sanofi approached Genzyme in June, and the two companies were engaged in friendly merger talks. But, according to Sanofi’s chief executive, Christopher Viehbacher, the discussions were stifled by Genzyme’s management.

Genzyme’s director of corporate communications, Bo Piela, said Sunday afternoon that the company would have no comment on Sanofi’s statements.

In its bid, Sanofi is offering $69 a share in cash. That represents a 38 percent premium over Genzyme’s unaffected share price before speculation hit the market about a possible deal. Shares of Genzyme closed at $67.62 on Friday.

People who have been briefed on the talks said that Termeer and Genzyme’s board had pressed Sanofi for a higher bid before they would be willing to engage in meaningful negotiations and open up the company’s books to its rival. Sanofi, meanwhile, faces no apparent bidding competition, and its public statement seemed aimed at raising shareholder pressure on Genzyme to sell.

A recent survey by Reuters of European and U.S. analysts showed an average forecast of a final deal price at $77.90 a share, with expectations ranging from $73 to $83.

Sanofi’s move Sunday falls short of going hostile.