Drugmaker Novo Nordisk seeks obesity, diabetes ‘bolt-on’ deals

Reuters | November 10, 2023

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By Maggie Fick and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

LONDON/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Novo Nordisk wants to buy more companies with drugs in early- to mid-stages of development through “bolt-on” deals of up to a few billion dollars, CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told Reuters on Friday.

As the company’s fortunes soar on demand for its popular weight-loss medicine Wegovy, Jorgensen said Novo sought to acquire companies working on medicines in the areas where it is already focused.

“So diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, the whole cardiometabolic space, but also in the rare blood disorders, haemophilia, sickle cell, we believe that we have a stronghold there,” he said in an interview.

“We will continuously be looking at smaller bolt-ons, typically early stage, phase 1 and phase 2, projects and typically of a very modest number of a few billion dollars,” he added.

Novo’s M&A strategy focuses on disease or therapeutic areas where the company has a “deep biological understanding”, and also on “a set of technologies” the company wants to leverage, he added. He cited “protein engineering,” saying the company had done that for year.

The company’s research and development (R&D) engine is intact and therefore it is unlikely to do transformative deals soon, Jorgensen said.

He spoke after the company announced it would invest around $6 billion in one of its Danish production facilities in the coming years.

Last month Novo said it had agreed to buy a drug for uncontrolled hypertension that could potentially be used in cardiovascular and kidney disease, from Singapore-headquartered biotech firm KBP Biosciences for up to $1.3 billion. It was the latest in a series of similarly-sized deals the company has done this year.

After focusing for nearly a century on insulin, demand for the Danish drugmaker’s obesity drugs has made it Europe’s most valuable company and its share price is up 49% this year.

Last week, when reporting quarterly earnings, it forecast another year of double-digit sales growth for its two most popular drugs: weight-loss drug Wegovy and diabetes Ozempic.

To keep up with demand, Novo is racing to increase production of those drugs, which contain the same active pharmaceutical ingredient, semaglutide, and are delivered in self-injection pens.

A healthcare banker, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters after the interview there were many companies in the cardiometabolic space with early-stage drugs that Novo Nordisk may be able to buy.

(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen and Maggie Fick in London, editing by Terje Solsvik, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Barbara Lewis)