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Warner Chilcott explores 'strategic options'

Irish pharma firm in talks about possible takeover

Ireland-based pharma company Warner Chilcott has confirmed that it is in talks with potential buyers after several days of speculation about a possible takeover.

In a brief statement, Warner Chilcott said it was "conducting a process to explore a broad range of strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value," including a potential sale of the firm, but said the process was in the early stages. Rumours have surfaced that Bayer has come to the table with a $32-per-share bid for the company.

The firm is due to announce its first-quarter financial results on Friday but has been struggling recently to cope with generic competition to its osteoporosis drug Actonel (risedronate) in Western Europe. Sales of the drug slid 23 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011 to $180m.

Meanwhile, Warner Chilcott was dealt a blow this week when a US District Court ruled that marketing applications for generic versions of its antibiotic Doryx 150mg (doxycycline) from  rival drugmakers Mylan and Impax Laboratories would not infringe its patent on the drug, despite upholding its validity.

Doryx has been a growth product for Warner Chilcott to help offset Actonel's decline, with sales of $46m, up 43 per cent, in the last quarter of 2011.

"As a result of the court's ruling, the company believes that Mylan has entered the market with its FDA approved generic equivalent," said Warner Chilcott, noting that the 150mg dose of Doryx accounts for almost all its sales of the product in the US.

The firm, which is planning to appeal the decision, now expects to record a charge of $90m-$108m in its first-quarter results related to Doryx.

Warner Chilcott said earlier this year that is was restructuring its Western European operations, with the loss of around 500 jobs in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

It has hired Goldman Sachs as its financial advisor as it decides the next steps for the business.

1st May 2012

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