Possible bidding war for Vectura as US tobacco giant’s £1bn counter offer gets thumbs up

July 12, 2021

Philip Morris International, the US tobacco group behind the Marlboro cigarette brand, is to buy Chippenham-based specialist pharmaceutical firm Vectura for just over £1bn after outbidding global private equity giant Carlyle.

Vectura, which has its roots in a spin-out from the University of Bath, had agreed to Carlyle’s £958m approach but withdrew support after receiving Philip Morris International’s £1.04bn approach. 

Carlyle said it was considering its options and would make a further announcement later, raising the prospect of a bidding war.

Philip Morris International is investing billions to move away from its core tobacco business.

Earlier this month it acquired Danish nicotine chewing maker Fertin Pharma for $820m and has invested at least $8bn into smoking alternatives such as its IQOS heated-tobacco devices, which was launched  in  the UK two years ago.

Chief executive officer Jacek Olczak has said the group is targeting at least $1bn in non-nicotine sales by 2025.

Vectura was founded in 1997 and makes inhalers and nebulisers. It has grown strongly by developing inhalable dry-powder drugs that treat lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Its pioneering approach led to new ways of treating asthma and lung diseases and it earned strong revenues from collaborations and licence agreements with global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies such as Novartis, Sandoz and GlaxoSmithKline.

In 2016 it merged with London-based Skyepharma, creating one of the UK’s leading specialist pharmaceutical firms with a combined turnover of £1bn.

Two years ago it unveiled a strategy to become a leading inhalation focused contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO).

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