Biogen Looks Better Than Ever as a Takeover Target

Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB) said it earned $143 million in the second quarter, or 49 cents a share, down -31% from last year, when the company earned 70 cents a share.

The results reflect a $110 million expenditure on Fampridine, a new drug to treat multiple sclerosis. Excluding the purchase, Biogen would have earned 75 cents a share, beating analysts’ estimates of 68 cents a share.

Revenue was $1.09 billion, a +10% rise. The company cited improved sales for two MS other drugs, Tysabri and Avonex, for the increase.

Biogen co-founder Phillip Sharp also announced he would retire from the board of directors. Sharp, a Nobel laureate who started the company in 1978, has served on the board since 1982. His retirement adds to the palace intrigue surrounding the board, of which activist investor Carl Icahn has been trying to wrestle control.

Icahn owns 5.6% of Biogen shares and has been trying to force a sale of the company since 2007. Big Pharma is rumored to be eager to buy, though the company says it hasn’t received any acceptable offers. Icahn, whose stake is worth about $760 million, counters that by saying the company has refused to engage in any sincere negotiations.

In 2008, Icahn, who’s worth an estimated $12 billion, nominated three candidates for four seats on the board in an attempt to gain control. None were elected. (Icahn resisted nominating a director to fill Sharp’s seat to avoid a direct challenge to the CEO.)  

In February 2009, four other seats came up for election, and Icahn nominated four candidates. Two of his directors won seats. Now, Sharp’s retirement may make it easier for Icahn to gain control and put the company on the block.

That’s good news for shareholders. Biogen — which has produced a steady stream of profitable, cutting-edge drugs — has never looked better as a takeover target. Icahn has a history of unlocking value by breaking companies up or forcing a sale, but even if he’s ultimately not the one who pulls off the deal, a takeover is more likely than ever now that the founder is stepping aside.