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Amgen to take $2.7-billion stake in BeiGene as it pursues China growth

Amgen
Thousand Oaks-based Amgen has a deal to develop and commercialize cancer drugs in China.
(Ric Francis / Associated Press)

Amgen Inc. will take a 20.5% stake in Chinese-American drug developer BeiGene under a deal to develop and commercialize about two dozen of Amgen’s on-market and experimental cancer drugs in China.

Amgen will buy about $2.7 billion worth of Beijing- and Cambridge, Mass.-based BeiGene’s shares. It has agreed to pay $174.85 per American depositary receipt, a 26% premium to where the U.S.-traded shares closed Wednesday. It will also take a seat on BeiGene’s board.

Under the agreement, BeiGene will take over Chinese commercialization of three drugs used to treat cancer and its effects: Xgeva, which is already on the market in China, and Kyprolis and Blincyto, which are near approval. The companies will equally split any profit or loss.

“We’ve been working to expand our strategy geographically over the last four or five years,” Murdo Gordon, Amgen executive vice president of global commercial operations, said in a telephone interview. “We’re largely complete in that, and this is really the missing piece of the puzzle.”

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BeiGene will also work to develop and commercialize 20 of Amgen’s experimental oncology drugs. BeiGene will put in $1.25 billion for that effort, and Thousand Oaks-based Amgen will help fund development and pay royalties on the products if Amgen sells them outside China.

BeiGene’s U.S. shares rose 27% in after-hours trading. Amgen shares were little changed.

China’s pharmaceutical market has transformed under the government’s efforts to bring in more new, brand-name medicines. As the government has agreed to approve and pay for new treatments, drugmakers have shifted their focus from selling older pills that have lost patent protection in Western markets and are increasingly focused on developing and commercializing newer products in China. Cancer drugs have been a particular focus, both for domestic Chinese companies and multinational drugmakers anxious to tap the massive market.

BeiGene already has a large footprint in China, Chief Executive John Oyler said in a phone interview. Out of its about 3,000 total workers, 2,300 are in China, with 700 in sales and 600 in clinical development.

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Oyler said the company has been expanding its sales and research operations in China for years in anticipation that the market would grow and become more inviting of new drugs.

“We realized that was going to happen, and we built out these deep capabilities in front of it,” Oyler said.

Under the agreement, Amgen isn’t allowed to build a larger stake without permission, the companies said in telephone interviews. Meline said the companies didn’t discuss an acquisition of BeiGene by Amgen.

The agreement is expected to close in early 2020, the companies said.


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