Johnson & Johnson said Friday it is in advanced talks to acquire Dutch biotech firm Crucell NV for 1.75 billion euros ($2.29 billion), a deal that would boost the American health care product maker's vaccine business.
In a joint statement, the companies said Johnson & Johnson, which already owns a 17.9 percent stake in Crucell, intends to offer euro24.75 per share in cash for the remainder — a 58 percent premium to Crucell's closing price Thursday of 15.70 euros.
Shares in Crucell, whose board recommended the offer to stockholders, jumped to 24.25 euros in early trading in Amsterdam.
"The companies expect that Crucell's strength in the manufacture, discovery and commercialization of vaccines would create a strong platform for Johnson & Johnson in the vaccine market," the companies said.
Johnson & Johnson, headquartered in New Brunswick, N.J., has about $64 billion in annual sales and is the world's biggest and most broadly-based healthcare company, with products ranging from Band-Aids and baby shampoo to contact lenses and contraceptives.
While it has a strong biotech business with its Centocor division, it's new to the vaccine market and has been looking to grow its business.
Last year it took an 18 percent stake in Irish biotech company Elan Corp. in a collaboration to develop both treatments for and a vaccine against Alzheimer's disease — another key target of the pharmaceutical industry.
Crucell's biggest-selling vaccine is Quinvaxem, which protects against five childhood diseases — but it has a number of vaccines and treatments under development.
Last year it was awarded a U.S. government grant for developing a treatment for the flu, including strains resistant to Tamiflu — the medicine most commonly used to combat influenza infections.
Crucell, based in Leiden, Netherlands, is also working on a treatment for people infected with rabies and an HIV vaccine.
In addition to its vaccine business, Crucell sells a line of human cells widely used by big pharmaceutical firms as a platform for developing vaccines.
J&J bought its stake in Crucell last year shortly after Wyeth had dropped a bid for Crucell when it was itself acquired by Pfizer Inc.
Crucell Chief Executive Ronald Brus said that at the time J&J took a stake, his company hadn't wanted to form partnerships with the existing vaccine giants.
"You want to partner with the one that wants to enter the market, not the ones that want to defend their market," he said.
© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.