Prior to the opening of U.S. market for trading today, clinical-stage biotechnology firm Viela Bio Inc. (VIE:NASDAQ), which is focused on pioneering treatments for autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases and Horizon Therapeutics Plc (HZNP:NASDAQ), announced that the companies have "entered into a definitive agreement under which Horizon will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Viela Bio Inc. common stock for $53.00 per share in cash, which represents a fully diluted equity value of approximately $3.05 billion, or approximately $2.67 billion net of Viela's cash and cash equivalents."
Horizon stated that it plans to finance the purchase using $1.3 billion of external debt together with cash on its balance sheet and noted that as of December 31, 2020, it had held cash and cash equivalents in the amount of $2.08 billion.
Horizon Therapeutics' Chairman, President and CEO Tim Walbert commented, "This acquisition represents a significant step forward in advancing our strategy – to expand our pipeline in order to accelerate our growth over the long term...Adding Viela's research and clinical development capabilities along with its deep, mid-stage biologics pipeline to our seasoned R&D and commercial teams, advances our transformation to an innovation-driven biotech company where we will build on the success of TEPEZZA and KRYSTEXXA to bolster our long-term growth trajectory. We intend to maximize the full potential of Viela's pipeline, including the pursuit of additional future indications."
Horizon indicated that its strategic interest in Viela is based upon expanding its commercial rare disease medicine portfolio with UPLIZNA® (inebilizumab-cdon), which it explained is "the first and only FDA-approved B-cell-depleting humanized monoclonal antibody for the treatment of neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), a rare, severe, autoimmune disease that attacks the optic nerve, spinal cord and brain stem, which leads to loss of vision and paralysis, in adults who are anti-aquaporin-4 (AQP4) antibody positive."
The report noted that the current Viela pipeline includes four therapeutic candidates active in nine ongoing development programs. These include UPLIZNA, VIB4920, VIB7734 and VIB1116, which are mostly centered around autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases.
Viela Bio's Chairman and CEO Bing Yao, Ph.D., remarked, "We are pleased that Horizon recognizes the value of our robust R&D pipeline, our commercial medicine UPLIZNA, which is an important treatment option for patients with NMOSD, and our talented team...We believe that the combined pipeline, including the pursuit of additional potential indications, has the potential to yield innovative new medicines to treat autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases. Our collective R&D expertise coupled with Horizon's commercial capabilities, has the potential to provide benefit to more patients with high unmet treatment needs."
The companies advised that the transaction has already been unanimously approved by each firm's respective Boards of Directors along with about 54% of Viela's outstanding common shareholders (no. of shares) including AstraZeneca U.K. Ltd. which have agreed to tender their shares. The purchase still remains subject to customary closing conditions and U.S. regulatory requirements.
Horizon Therapeutics is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, and has a market cap of around $18 billion. The firm concentrates its efforts on the research, development and commercialization of medicines used to treat rare and rheumatic diseases.
Viela Bio is a clinical-stage biotechnology company headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md. that is focused on the development and commercialization of treatments for autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases.
Viela Bio started off the day with a market cap of around $1.9 billion with approximately 54.84 million shares outstanding and a short interest of about 6.4%. VIE shares opened 52 % higher today at $52.71 (+$18.03, +51.99%) over Friday's $34.68 closing price. The stock has traded today between $52.60 between $53.15 per share and is currently trading at $52.90 (+$18.22, +52.54%).[NLINSERT]
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