AbbVie to buy leukemia drug maker Pharmacyclics for $21 billion

AbbVie will spend about $21 billion to buy fellow drugmaker Pharmacyclics and add another major revenue producer to a portfolio that already includes the world's top-selling drug.

The deal will give the North Chicago, Ill., drugmaker Imbruvica, a blood cancer treatment that Pharmacyclics makes and then markets with Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Biotech. AbbVie executives told analysts on Thursday that their company could reap more than $7 billion in annual sales from Imbruvica in a few years.

Imbruvica is approved in more than 40 countries and treats three types of blood cancers including chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which is the most common leukemia in adults. The once-a-day capsule works by blocking a protein that allows the cancer to multiply and spread.

AbbVie Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Gonzalez told analysts that the drug comes with "vast potential."

AbbVie plans to increase sales for Imbruvica's already approved uses, add new uses and make it more of a first-line treatment, which basically means it's the initial thing doctors try when treating a patient. That represents a bigger revenue opportunity.

Although AbbVie touted the potential benefits of its latest acquisition attempt, several analysts said the deal price surprised them, and investors pushed the price of AbbVie stock down Thursday. In contrast, shares of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Pharmacyclics jumped.

AbbVie's winning bid amounted to an offer of $261.25 for each Pharmacyclics share. That represents a premium of about 21% to the closing price of Pharmacyclics shares on Tuesday.

AbbVie will offer a mix of cash and stock to Pharmacyclics shareholders, who will be able to choose either option or a combination of the two.


The offer comes a few months after AbbVie scuttled a roughly $55-billion deal to buy another drugmaker, Shire, after the U.S. government created new limitations on the tax benefits of reincorporating overseas. AbbVie would have reincorporated on the British island of Jersey, where Shire is incorporated.

Pharmacyclics shares rose $23.74, or 10.3%, to $254.22, while AbbVie's stock fell $3.41, or 5.7%, to $56.86.