Sanofi pitched $71 offer to Genzyme: report

BOSTON Wed Sep 8, 2010 4:52pm BST

A sign marks the headquarters of Genzyme in Cambridge, Massachusetts August 3, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A sign marks the headquarters of Genzyme in Cambridge, Massachusetts August 3, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Sanofi-Aventis SA (SASY.PA) pitched a new offer to acquire U.S. biotechnology company Genzyme Corp GENZ.O for $71 a share in exchange for the opportunity to conduct "partial due diligence," according to DealReporter, which cited a source close to the discussions.

DealReporter, a financial news service affiliated with the Financial Times Group, said the $71 offer is likely Sanofi's last and "top-end" informal proposal without getting additional information about the company's finances.

A spokewoman for Sanofi declined to comment on the report. Genzyme was not immediately available for comment.

Sanofi has formerly offered to acquire Genzyme for $69 a share.

DealReporter said the $71-a-share number "was thrown around in phone conversations the two companies held late last week."

Even with a higher offer, such a "modest" bump would be unlikely to provide Sanofi the opportunity to examine Genzyme's books, the first source and a second source briefed on the situation told DealReporter.

The French pharmaceutical giant has communicated to Genzyme that it would not be ready to increase its offer to $74-75 a share, said to be the minimum level required by Genzyme to disclose its accounts, the first source and a leading Genzyme shareholder told DealReporter.

This was echoed by a person familiar with Sanofi, who said the company's last $69 bid was "much better than $50," the price at which Genzyme shares traded before interest from Sanofi emerged, DealReporter said.

Cosmetics giant L'Oreal (OREP.PA) and French oil and gas major Total (TOTF.PA) hold top spots on Sanofi's shareholder register as well as seats on the company's board of directors. So far, these two companies have been driving the discussion of the final price Sanofi might be willing to pay, the source familiar with Sanofi's board told DealReporter.

However, a final decision on price is likely to be made informally since the remainder of the Sanofi shareholder register is scattered. If needed, an exceptional board meeting can be convened within a few hours' time, though such a meeting is yet to be called, the source familiar with the board said.

While the Sanofi board has not met formally since July, L'Oreal and Total have discussed their strategies with regard to Genzyme over the phone, the source familiar with the board told DealReporter.

Although the board remains divided on the price, this same source said, "Chances are the deal will be done," noting that reaching an agreement could take a considerable amount of time, DealReporter said.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke, editing by Dave Zimmerman)