Genzyme investor: Right Sanofi price "lots higher"

By Lewis Krauskopf and Bill Berkrot

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – Genzyme Corp (GENZ.O: ) shareholder and board member Ralph Whitworth said the “ingredients are there” for a deal with Sanofi-Aventis SA (SASY.PA: ), but the French drugmaker’s $69-a-share offer is “not even a good starting point” and needs to go “lots higher.”

Whitworth, an activist investor, said in an interview he would not stand in the way of a deal at a fair price, but made clear Sanofi’s $18.5 billion hostile offer fell far short.

“I talk to these shareholders, I know them, and it’s very clear from them that $69 is just not the price. It’s not even a good starting point,” Whitworth told CNBC television.

Whitworth called Sanofi’s Chief Executive Officer Chris Viehbacher a “sophisticated player, a seasoned manager” and said he and Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer should be able to pound out a deal.

“They know these assets. The boards know the assets. The values are there,” Whitworth said. “All the ingredients are there.”

Whitworth was a critic of the U.S. biotechnology company’s management before winning appointment to the board earlier this year.

His Relational Investors, a $6 billion investment firm, is Genzyme’s third-biggest shareholder with about 4.1 percent of outstanding shares, behind another activist investor, Carl Icahn, and ClearBridge Advisors, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Whitworth said a deal should happen, but when asked what the right price is, he said: “Lots higher.”

Genzyme, which specializes in high-priced treatments for rare genetic disorders, has been resisting the takeover bid from Sanofi as too low. Sanofi’s initial tender offer expires on December 10, but shareholders are expected to reject the offer at the current $69-a-share price.

Genzyme shares were trading at $70.99 on Thursday and have been consistently above the offer price on expectations of an eventual higher bid.

Genzyme became vulnerable to a takeover when a manufacturing crisis led to severe shortages of two of its biggest selling drugs, hurting earnings and sending its share price plunging.

Sanofi launched its hostile bid, making its pitch directly to shareholders, in October after Genzyme said in late August that the $69-a-share offer did not justify entering talks.

Genzyme has argued that Sanofi is significantly undervaluing Genzyme’s experimental multiple sclerosis drug, Campath, and has failed to take into account that the manufacturing problems are largely behind the company.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf, Bill Berkrot and Ransdell Pierson; editing by Andre Grenon)

Genzyme investor: Right Sanofi price "lots higher"