Lazard Sees More Deals in $100 Billion Health-Care Recovery

A sharp recovery in health-care dealmaking will quicken as large pharmaceutical companies chase new treatments through acquisitions, according to one of Lazard Ltd.’s senior investment bankers covering the sector.

Since the start of August, the value of health-care deals globally has more than doubled year-on-year to $102 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s thanks to multibillion-dollar deals from the likes of French pharmaceutical group Sanofi to U.S.-based Gilead Sciences Inc.

“In the first six months of 2020, health-care companies became more inward looking than usual, said Dale Raine, head of Lazard’s European health-care business. “As the year has progressed, the underlying strategic imperative — the need to propel growth and drive innovation — has come back into focus.”

Companies’ renewed desire to access lucrative therapies for cancer and other rare diseases has helped slow the downward trend in mergers and acquisitions in the sector, which, along with others, had seen appetite for dealmaking severely dampened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pickup has been driven by transactions including Sanofi’s $3.4 billion purchase of Principia Biopharma Inc. in August, which gave it full control of a company developing treatments for multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders. In the same month, Siemens Healthineers AG agreed a $16.4 takeover of Varian Medical Systems Inc., providing it an entry into cancer treatments.

The deals have continued in September, with Gilead’s $21 billion deal for Immunomedics Inc., the maker of a promising breast-cancer therapy, and genetic sequencing giant Illumina Inc. agreeing to acquire cancer-detection startup Grail Inc. for $8 billion.

Raine said health-care companies were also being boosted by access to equity market financing. Since the beginning of March, biotech companies globally have raised $38 billion selling new shares via initial public offerings and follow-on deals, 160% more than the amount for the same period in 2019, Bloomberg data show.

“In previous economic downturns the biotech equity markets have been one of the first to close and last to reopen,” Raine said. “This time is noticeably different. The biotech sector has been truly validated as a source of external innovation for large pharma.”

Lazard is the no.2 adviser globally on announced health-care deals in 2020, according to Bloomberg data. The bank worked with Gilead on the Immunomedics purchase and Aimmune Therapeutics Inc. on its takeover by Nestle SA in August.

Companies acorss a range of sectors, including health-care, are also returning to strategic dealmaking as they look beyond the immediate impact of the pandemic, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s co-heads of investment banking in Europe, the Middle East and Africa said last week. With the likes of AstraZeneca Plc, Moderna Inc. and Gilead working to develop vaccines and treatments for the Covid-19 virus, Raine said there was “an increasingly positive perception that the health-care sector more broadly can provide solutions to the current crisis.”

— With assistance by Crystal Tse

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