Press review

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Fresenius CEO may have to fight for his job

Country : Austria, Germany, U.S.

Keywords :
BERLIN, 18 May (APM) - Fresenius chief executive Stephan Sturm may have to fight to keep his position after the company pulled out of its planned acquisition of U.S. liquid generics drugmaker Akorn in April, monthly Manager Magazin reports on Friday (p70-74).
Sturm took too big a risk in trying to acquire Akorn, the monthly writes as the company holds its general assembly on Friday.
Fresenius pulled out of the $4.7 billion acquisition of Akorn at the end of April (APMHE 57791) after finding "blatant fraud" at the top level of Akorn’s executive team. A Delaware court will decide on the case after Akorn sued Fresenius.
If it turns out that Strum was too careless on key points during the takeover, his position would be in jeopardy.
Earlier in the week, in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Monday (p18), Sturm said he saw "no reason to resign" (APMHE 58075). He pointed out that the grievances were "not discernible in the course of the due diligence audit".
In an in-depth analysis of Fresenius' balance sheet, Handelsblatt wrote on Thursday (p22-23) that the aborted deal threatens Fresenius' future growth.
Uncertainties about the deal partly explain Fresenius shares losing 12% in 2017 and continuing to fall.

Merck KGaA shares jump by 6% on positive cancer drug results

Merck KGaA's shares gained 6% on Thursday on the German stock exchange on the announcement of positive results for two experimental cancer drugs, report SZ (p27) and Die Welt (p15) on Friday.
The results for tepotinib in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and M7824A in human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers and advanced NSCLC will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) at the beginning of June.
The jump came just after Merck's Q1 results announced on Tuesday (APMHE 58091), which investors saw as disappointing, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported on Wednesday (p18).

Roche ahead in data management

Roche is the only company to combine its pharmaceuticals and diagnostics businesses with a data management business, Roche CEO Severin Schwan said at a press conference on Thursday and FAZ reports on Friday (p19).
The group therefore has a structural advantage over its competitors, he added.
Roche has strengthened its position in the area with the acquisition of Flatiron Health, which collects patient data from individual cases, in February (APMHE 56917) and a majority stake in Foundation Medicine (FMI), which compares genome analyses with an existing and constantly growing data pool, since 2015 (APMHE 41067).
Schwann also expects huge improvements in drug development thanks to digitisation, the paper says.
If real world data are digitalised, the number of patients included in the control arm of clinical trials of new drugs could be reduced or the control arm could even be suppressed, he said. Clinical studies could therefore be designed much more efficiently in the future.

Boehringer favours Austria over Germany for cancer research

Vienna is the centre of clinical research for Germany pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim, largely because of tax relief, FAZ reported on Wednesday (p16).
Boehringer's "regional centre Vienna" serves 33 markets and employs almost 1,700 people in what is one of its largest and most innovative locations, the paper said. The company has also begun construction on a new production plant in Vienna, which will employ an additional 500 people and cost €700 million to build.
While Austria, like Germany, is an expensive place to invest, the location in Vienna benefits from tax relief, which was increased by 2 percentage points at the beginning of the year. Since then, companies have been getting 14% of their costs reimbursed.
Tax incentives combined with the availability of qualified workers make Austria a good example for Germany to follow if it wants to become more competitive as a pharma location, the paper said.

Bayer's pharma business will grow in the medium term

Bayer's pharma business Pharma will be a growing business in the medium term, the company's chief finance officer Johannes Dietsch told Börsen Zeitung on Saturday (p1 and 8).
When asked whether Bayer faces a "patent cliff" in its pharmaceuticals business once licences for blockbuster drugs anti-coagulant Xarelto (rivaroxaban) and eye drug Eylea (aflibercept) expire, Dietsch said: "The question is how you strengthen the pharma pipeline. Do you need a large acquisition or are there other opportunities like cooperations, partnerships, licensing deals and perhaps smaller acquisitions?"
"Nobody should expect that when two of our successful products become generic, that we can just replace them in the following year," he added.
Dietsch also said that the potential synergies from buying U.S. agricultural group Monsanto will be lower than the $1.5 billion over three years initially expected, because of the divestments requested by anti-trust authorities.
Bayer plans to go ahead with a capital increase, Dietsch said, declining to speculate about the size. It will happen around the time of the closing of the Monsanto deal, and not before 25 May, he said.

How Bayer CEO has managed Monsanto deal

The cover story of the monthly Manager Magazin on Friday (p32-40) tells how
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann has managed the Monsanto mega deal over the last two years.
Baumann has regularly shared its personal views on the process with the monthly.
Baumann started to work on a deal as Bayer's chief finance officer (CFO) in autumn 2015 and made its first offer in May 2016, a few weeks after being appointed CEO. The paper reviews every successive step. The final decision of the U.S. department of Justice is expected in June.

CureVac CEO moves to supervisory board

Ingmar Hoerr, co-founder and CEO of biotech Curevac, plans to move from the executive board to the supervisory board at the annual general meeting on 20 June, SZ reported on Monday (p18) (APMHE 58019).
Daniel Menichella, the head of CureVac's U.S. subsidiary, will succeed him. The company wants to use this move to boost its global positioning and visibility, especially in the U.S.

Ebola vaccines sent to Congo

The World Health Organization has sent doses of Merck & Co's experimental Ebola vaccine to DR Congo a few days after the first cases of a potential epidemic outbreak was revealed, wrote FAZ on Tuesday (p7).
Merck's vaccine is considered highly effective, but has not yet been approved. Around 300,000 doses have been manufactured and stored in case of emergency.
However, the distribution of this vaccine, which must be stored at minus 60 to minus 80 degrees celsius, is a challenge in DR Congo.

Questions on Novartis's corporate culture

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has acknowledged that the group's corporate culture has to be revised, after the revelation that the group paid $1.2 million to U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, wrote Handelsblatt on Thursday (p28).
One key question is how the deal was approved by all the relevant committees despite the enormous reputation risk, the paper writes.
Such behaviour reveals a structural problem in the group that cannot be solved by personnel changes alone, like the resignation of Novartis’ general counsel Felix Ehrat (APMHE 58109).
The case comes after revelations of proven or alleged misconduct: in South Korea for kickback payments, in the U.S. on questionable invitations for doctors and in Greece on accusations of bribery of politicians.
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