Shire board concedes in extra time, AbbVie gets 31 billion pound winner

After two months of end to end play, the directors of Shire pharmaceuticals have relented at last, recommending AbbVie's fifth offer which values the business at a hefty 31.3bn pounds. So which side of the deal is Germany, and which Argentina?

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 16 Oct 2014

Well, AbbVie’s boss Rick Gonazalez has good reason to be feeling victorious this morning. Subject to all the usual caveats about due diligence and so on, he’s secured a complementary business with an established presence in some lucrative niche treatment areas, as well as paving the way to move the combined group's HQ to the low-tax UK saving a fortune in corporation tax. 

And he’s managed to negotiate the shark-infested political waters of UK national interest without luring so much as a single predatory pectoral fin to the surface. Nice job Rick.

But you can also make a pretty good case for Shire’s top team - CEO Flemming Ornskov and chair Susan Kilsby – having held their nerve and got the ball in the back of the net just before the whistle blew, too.

AbbVie’s original May 5 offer was £38.97 a share, remember, compared to the £53.20 a share that this latest £31bn deal represents. That’s a whopping 42% increase they have negotiated, two months of brinkmanship that is surely well above and beyond the call of fiduciary duty.

The latest deal comprises £24.44 cash per share, plus 0.896 new AbbVie shares, and if it goes through it will create the world ninth largest drug company, with 30,00 employees and revenues of just over $23bn - just behind Astra Zeneca in the global pharma premiership.

So perhaps it is true what they teach in business school, that business (unlike football) is not a zero-sum game, and that the best deals are those which allow both sides to win at the same time.

In fact if there is one outfit which is left looking like the sorry runner up in this whole story, it’s neither AbbVie nor Shire but Pfizer. Its recent failed attempt to secure a similar UK domicile via the acquisition of AstraZeneca (whilst clearly a bigger mouthful) looks like a botched job in comparison...


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