Sanofi-Aventis dismissed suggestions by bid target Genzyme that it had opened the door to paying a higher price for the U.S. biotech firm, deepening an increasingly fractious takeover battle on Friday.
Genzyme said on Thursday that Sanofi's chief executive had dangled the possibility of paying as much as $80 per share for the U.S. biotech company at a meeting in September before going hostile with a lower bid worth $69 share.
French pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi disputed this.
"We offered no price range and Genzyme continued to refuse to engage with us on discussions on valuations," Sanofi chief spokesman Jean-Marc Podvin said.
Genzyme shares rose to a year-high of $73.05 in after-hours U.S. trading, more than $4 above Sanofi's current offer of $69, which values the business at $18.5 billion.
Sanofi shares dipped in trading in Paris.
Sanofi wants to add Genzyme, the world's largest maker of drugs for rare genetic diseases, to its portfolio to help drive earnings growth through a "cliff" of patent expires on established blockbuster drugs.
The latest twist in the transatlantic takeover fight revolves around conflicting accounts of what happened when the chief executives held their only face-to-face meeting concerning the bid on Sept. 20.
According to a Genzyme securities filing, Sanofi Chief Executive Officer Chris Viehbacher proposed on that date to Henri Termeer, his counterpart at Genzyme, that the two sides discuss a deal price range of $69 to $80 per share.
Viehbacher, according to Genzyme, said the price range was "manageable," but doubted he could reach the higher end based on his current understanding of the company's business.
Two weeks after the meeting, France's Sanofi took its $69 per share offer directly to Genzyme shareholders. Sanofi denied making any kind of offer at the meeting.
"We strongly disagree with Genzyme's characterization of the Sept. 20 meeting between the CEOs," Podvin said.
"At that meeting we made a variety of efforts to move the process forwards, including discussing the merits of our $69 per share offer and we tried to understand if media reports about Genzyme's price expectations were accurate," the Sanofi spokesman added.
In its own recent regulatory filing, Sanofi said Viehbacher has been courting Genzyme since May 23, when he first spoke to Termeer to discuss a potential transaction.
Termeer asked to postpone the discussions twice as he fended off a proxy battle with Icahn and convened a new board, then responded in July that Genzyme's directors didn't believe it was the right time to explore a deal, according to the filing.
The spat over what went on between the CEOs came as Genzyme said it would evaluate alternatives for its assets, including reaching out to other companies, to prove it is worth more to investors than what Sanofi has offered.
Genzyme also reiterated its rejection of Sanofi's bid.
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