* Actelion, J&J say in exclusive talks
* Both caution there is no assurance of transaction
* Could dash hopes of rival suitor Sanofi
(So m(Adds background on previous development))
By John Revill and Ludwig Burger
ZURICH/FRANKFURT, Dec 21 Swiss biotech company
Actelion has turned back to prospective bidder Johnson
& Johnson for exclusive talks about a "strategic
transaction", in an about-turn that appears to sideline rival
Actelion said in a brief statement on Wednesday it was in
exclusive negotiations with the U.S. healthcare giant but that
there could be "no assurance any transaction will result from
these discussions", declining to comment further.
J&J confirmed the talks in a separate statement.
The announcement could dash the hopes of French drugmaker
Sanofi, which sources have said has been circling Actelion after
J&J a little over a week ago said it had ended discussions with
Sanofi has been trying to broaden its drug line-up as its
key diabetes business comes under pressure.
The French company has signalled it remained keen to make a
takeover deal after being trumped in August by Pfizer's
$14 billion bid for U.S. cancer drug company
Sanofi declined to comment on Wednesday.
Actelion had a market value of 23.2 billion Swiss francs
($22.6 billion) at Wednesday's closing price of 215 Swiss francs
U.S. shares in Actelion rose 11 percent after the
announcement. J&J shares were down 0.3 percent at 1815 GMT.
Actelion had told J&J before initial talks collapsed last
week that it was confident it could attract an offer
significantly higher than the approximately 250 Swiss francs per
share the U.S. company had offered, one person familiar with the
There were also disagreements about the proposed deal's
structure, the person added at the time.
Actelion co-founder and Chief Executive Jean-Paul Clozel has
fended off previous takeover attempts, including a reported
takeover approach by Shire last year and an activist
campaign in 2011 by U.S. hedge fund Elliott Advisors.
Acquiring the Swiss biotech firm would boost J&J's drug
pipeline and diversify its prospects. J&J's biggest product, the
arthritis drug Remicade, faces cheaper competition from Pfizer
($1 = 1.0255 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by John Revill in Zurich, additional reporting by
Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by Michael Shields and Jane