Danish Ablynx chairman open to Novo: “Everybody has a chance to catch our interest”

Bo Jesper Hansen, new chairman of the board in Ablynx, holds open the option that Novo Nordisk, after two unsuccessful attempts, acquires the company. But Novo will have to make a better offer.

Foto: /ritzau/Kåre Viemose

So far, Ablynx has given Novo Nordisk the cold shoulder although the Danish drug group bid around DKK 20 billion (USD 3.22 billion) for the Belgian biotech company.

But this week, the Danish pharma billionaire Bo Jesper Hansen took position as chairman in Ablynx’s board of directors. And he is not completely dismissive of Novo Nordisk.

“Everybody has a chance to catch our interest but the offer has to be right,” he says in an interview with MedWatch.

No changes despite Danish chairman

He declines to provide further details about what Novo Nordisk must do to convince the Ablynx board. And he stresses that although Ablynx now has a Danish chairman, the board maintains its attitude towards Novo Nordisk.

“The board has completely agreed to decline an offer we believe undervalues Ablynx. Our job as a board is to create most value for the shareholders and the offer (from Novo Nordisk, ed.) does not consider this. We maintain our strategy of continuing to operate as an independent company,” says Bo Jesper Hansen.

The board has completely agreed to decline an offer we believe undervalues Ablynx.

Bo Jesper Hansen, chairman, Ablynx

So, even with you in charge of the board, it will not be easier for Novo to negotiate with Ablynx?

“No. I represent a company’s shareholders and I am supported by a united board. So, the only change with me as chairman is that it of course will be easier to speak Danish than another language.”

A coincidence

Bo Jesper Hansen was among the founders of the company Swedish Orphan, currently known as Sobi after the merger with Biovitrum. In 2016, he sold most of his share in Sobi for DKK 700 million (USD 112.55 million).

He also has a past as chairman in Topotarget, where he negotiated the merger with French Bioalliance that led to the founding of Onxeo. Moreover, he is currently a member of several boards, for instance in Orphazyme, and he was both investor and board member in Zymenex that was sold in 2013.

According to Bo Jesper Hansen, there is no connection between Novo Nordisk’s acquisition bid and his appointment as chairman in the board of Ablynx.

“The process was planned and has been going on for a long period as the company is approaching a commercial situation. With my background and experience, it is natural that I was appointed to lead the company towards a more commercial focus,” says the new chairman.

About to launch new drug

The commercial situation, Bo Jesper Hansen refers to, is the planned launch of caplacizumab, Ablynx’s drug for treatment of the rare bleeding disorder acquired Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (aTTP).

“Caplacizumab has shown amazing phase III data as we communicated in Q4 and on the JP Morgan conference (currently taking place in San Francisco, ed.). We are to market a product that I suppose will be registered in Europe, and maybe even in the US, in 2018. It will be a game changer for the entire company and we will grow from being a developing company to a fully integrated firm,” says Bo Jesper Hansen.

According to him, the commercial prospects are also the reason why he takes position as chairman of the board now.

“I have spent my whole life working with orphan drugs and this is an ultra-orphan drug (for very rare diseases, ed.). So, I have the expertise necessary for launching it in Europe and the US,” he explains.

When Novo Nordisk announced its bid, the Ablynx share was rising by around 45 percent to the price of EUR 30.5 (USD 36.52) per share. The following day, the price was EUR 30.8 (USD 36.88) per share.

However, Ablynx also announced that Novo Nordisk “fundamentally undervalues the company” and that Ablynx has no reason for continuing the negotiations with Novo Nordisk.

 Novo upon billion-dollar bid: An acquisition of Ablynx will not satisfy our hunger 

English edit: Ida Løjmand

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