(Repeats story that ran on Friday, with no changes)
* Co-founder Clozel has made no comment on takeover talks
* Previously an outspoken defender of Actelion independence
* Source says offer of near $27 bln being discussed
* Offer at a 30 pct premium may be too high to ignore
By Maiya Keidan and John Miller
ZURICH, Dec 2 Actelion's silence speaks volumes
to the dozens of event-driven hedge funds piling into the Swiss
biotech firm, betting that Johnson & Johnson's (J&J)
approach will result in an outright takeover and handsome
A source familiar with the matter has told Reuters the two
companies are discussing a bid of close to $27 billion, or 250
Swiss francs ($248) per share, which is 25 percent above
Actelion's current share price.
Both companies have confirmed that U.S. diversified
healthcare group J&J - maker of Pizbuin sun screen, surgical
tools and arthritis drug Remicade - has approached Actelion
about a potential takeover, but kept mum on details.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Jean-Paul Clozel and fellow
shareholder Rudolf Maag have in the past been outspoken
defenders of an independent Actelion, which has built a $2
billion business by focusing on a debilitating lung disease.
But they have made no public comment since the companies
confirmed the talks a week ago, and Clozel would have some
explaining to do if he rejected an offer with such a big
premium, fund managers with a more conventional investment
approach told Reuters.
"This time it's different. It has not been outright
rejected. That's an indication that you can go a little bit
bigger," said Michael Wegener, managing partner at Hong
Kong-based event-driven hedge fund Case Equity Partners.
He has staked 1 percent of his fund's net assets under
management on Actelion, but did not disclose the size of his
assets, and is prepared to stock up if J&J tables a more
detailed takeover proposal.
"We don't think Clozel is going to fight," said another
hedge fund manager, who asked not to be named.
Clozel holds about 5 percent in the biotech firm, according
to its annual report, while his wife Martine Clozel, co-founder
and chief scientific officer, also owns an undisclosed stake.
No detailed data is available on share purchases by
event-driven funds - who typically go after deal targets
available for a discount to a mooted takeover offer - but
Reuters journalists have been in contact with scores of fund
managers who have discussed their tactics.
Daily turnover in Actelion shares has on average jumped more
than fourfold since media reports of a J&J approach emerged on
Nov. 24, from their three-month average.
The shares were trading at 200 francs as of 1603 GMT on
Friday, up 27 percent since Nov. 24.
Many investors are counting on J&J to structure a deal that
would grant shareholders a cash payout and award Clozel a
face-saving departure that honours the value of the firm's
development pipeline of experimental drugs.
Some analysts argue J&J, or any rival suitor, will pay up
for Actelion's launched products - two new drugs alone are seen
generating combined peak sales of well above $4 billion - but
have little appreciation for its drug development projects.
Analysts at brokerage Brian Garnier on Friday suggested
Clozel could be offered to keep control of the experimental
drugs portfolio and cash in on the rest.
"A stand-alone Actelion going forward would therefore
consist of a pipeline company with limited or no revenues."
Rudolf Maag, another linchpin investor, who according to
Thomson Reuters data holds 5.1 percent, has previous ties to
J&J: he made much of his near $2 billion fortune when he sold
his stake in medical device maker Synthes-Stratec to J&J four
Maag declined to comment this week, a departure from five
years ago when he and Clozel defended Actelion against an
attempt by U.S.-based hedge fund Elliott Advisors to get the
biotech firm to put itself up for auction.
Hedge funds see Maag playing a critical role in a J&J deal,
potentially persuading Clozel the offer is too good for
shareholders to pass up.
"We are monitoring the situation very actively," said one
hedge fund manager, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"I would strongly assume pretty much every other
event-driven fund in the world is doing the same. I have heard
of event-driven funds who already have several $100 million
worth of stock."
($1 = 1.0093 Swiss francs)
(Additional reporting by Paul Arnold; Writing by Ludwig Burger;
Editing by Susan Fenton)