French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis said on Monday it had launched an 18.5-billion-dollar (13.4-billion-euro) bid for US biotechnology group and rare disease specialist Genzyme, a proposal Genzyme management spurned in late August.
"Genzyme's refusal to take part in constructive discussions has led Sanofi-Aventis to put forward its offer directly to shareholders," Sanofi said in a statement.
The company said its bid, at 69 dollars per share, would remain open until December 10.
"It's a substantial price that well reflects the value of the company," Sanofi chief executive Christopher Viehbacher said during a telephone press briefing.
He said Genzyme shareholders representing 50 percent of the capital wanted to sell their shares.
"They want to sell and do not understand the attitude of management and the board of directors who do not want to sit at the table and negotiate with us."
Industry analysts said that acquiring Genzyme would be a major step for Sanofi in a drive by big pharmaceutical groups to become active in biotechnology and treatments for rare diseases.
Such treatments require specific knowledge to develop but can be marketed at high prices and are difficult to copy.
At 69 dollars, the offer amounts to a 38 percent premium on Genzyme's closing share price, 49.86 dollars, on the New York Stock Exchange on July 1, the date on which reports of Sanofi's intentions first surfaced.
Genzyme shares closed at 70.90 dollars on Friday.
Genzyme management has until now insisted that Sanofi's proposal greatly undervalues the US group. The company's board of directors rejected a Sanofi overture on August 30.
Genzyme chief executive Henri Termeer has said an offer pitched at 80 dollars a share would more accurately reflect the value of the company.
Sanofi-Aventis shares early Monday fell 0.82 percent in Paris, a loss that by early afternoon had narrowed to 0.37 percent at 48.11 euros on an overall market that was 0.98 percent weaker.
A Paris-based analyst, who asked not to be named, said early Monday that "the market had been betting on a negotiated solution between the parties that would have enabled access to (Genzyme's) scientific and accounting data."
He said Sanofi had tried unsuccessfully to secure such access, which could have provided assurances on Genzyme's growth prospects, particularly regarding new products.
He added that the uncertainty surrounding the bid in the absence of the data was weighing on Sanofi's share price.
Source: AFP Global Edition