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Global healthcare M&A delivers strong performance | White & Case LLP


Dealmaking in the pharma, medical and biotech (PMB) subsectors was driven by both old and new market trends in 2022

Following a ground-breaking year for dealmaking in 2021, global healthcare M&A remained robust in 2022, despite a general slowdown in M&A across the board.

A total of 2,852 PMB deals took place in the sector in 2022, outpacing annual totals on Mergermarket record since 2006 (apart from the outlier in 2021). A total of US$375.1 billion in deals, meanwhile, still sits above the pre-2021 average.

M&A activity by volume 2006 – 2022
Target location: Global Bidder location: Global Sectors: Pharma, medical and biotech

Explore the data

US pharma buys into biotech

While 2021 was characterized by a record number of transactions worth US$5 billion or more—20 in total—there were nine such megadeals in 2022, focused on biotech and medical deals, as cash-rich big pharma continued to take advantage of declining valuations post-pandemic.

The biggest of these deals included Amgen’s US$28.3 billion acquisition of Horizon Pharma, General Electric’s spin-off of GE HealthCare Technologies for US$22 billion, Johnson & Johnson’s US$19.3 billion payout for heart pump manufacturer ABIOMED and Pfizer’s US$11.6 billion acquisition of biotech firm Biohaven.

For Pfizer, following the success of its COVID-19 vaccine, the US pharma group was keen to use acquisitions to bolster its drugs pipeline and sustain its growth—and the biotech sector, with its normalizing valuations, proved the perfect hunting ground.

Pfizer also announced the acquisition of US biotech firm Global Blood Therapeutics (GBT) in August in a bid to replenish its drugs pipeline. The purchase of GBT, a developer of treatments targeting sickle cell disease, was valued at US$5.3 billion.

In another bid from a major US pharma firm to bolster its pipeline with an innovative biotech firm, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) announced a US$4.6 billion purchase of US cancer drugmaker Turning Point in June. The acquisition is the largest by BMS in almost two years as it looks to take advantage of the fast-growing global oncology market—valued at US$286 billion in 2021, according to market research firm Precedence Research.

UK seeks PMB growth overseas

UK dealmakers have also been increasingly acquisitive in snapping up overseas PMB firms, carrying out 118 outbound deals in 2022—more than any previous annual record. This included GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s US$3.3 billion purchase of US vaccine startup Affinivax. Along with strengthening the company’s vaccines pipeline, the deal will see GSK expand its presence in the Boston area, a center for global biotech innovation.

The deal follows GSK’s announcement to buy blood cancer specialist Sierra Oncology for US$2 billion in April following activist pressure to strengthen its drugs pipeline.

Other UK cross-border deals include the acquisition of medical devices specialists Biofarma in Italy from White Bridge Investments by UK private equity (PE) firm Ardian, along with Germano Scarpa and Gabriella Tavasani. The deal, which was completed in March, was valued at US$1.3 billion and saw Ardian acquire 70% of the business while Germano Scarpa and Gabriella Tavasani reinvested to retain a 30% stake.

In November, Ardian also reinvested in Italian pharma company Neopharmed Gentili through its latest fund, together with NB Renaissance, jointly holding an 80.86% stake with equal shares.

UK PE firms are also keen to buy into the fast-growing biotech sector. In January, London-based Permira teamed up with Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to acquire and merge Italy-based Kedrion and UK-based Bio Products Laboratory (BPL), in a deal worth US$ 2.7 billion. Both companies develop, manufacture and commercialize therapeutic products from blood plasma. The newly formed entity will have roughly €1.1 billion in annual revenue, built on a portfolio of 37 products reaching over 100 countries.

Private equity seeks out innovative buys

The healthcare sector has become a hotspot for global PE firms looking to capitalize on post-pandemic growth opportunities. Fueled by a record amount of dry powder in the market, global PE activity remained robust in 2022, with a total of 914 deals worth US$128.4 billion, overtaking every other annual total on Mergermarket record apart from 2021, when firms spent an all-time high of US$276.8 billion across 1,105 deals on healthcare assets.

The highest-valued global PE deal of the year in the PMB sector saw US-based Summit Health bought by Walgreens Boots Alliance through its subsidiary, Village Practice Management, for US$8.9 billion.

Other leading deals included: the purchase of Denmark-based hearing aid manufacturer WS Audiology by EQT and Santo Holding for US$5.7 billion; the sale of Covetrus, a US-based animal-health technology and services firm, to Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and TPG Capital for US$3.4 billion; the aforementioned GSK deal for Affinivax; KKR’s acquisition of IVIRMA Global for US$3.3 billion; and Astorg Partners’ purchase of Germany-based pharmaceuticals manufacturer Corden Pharma International for US$3.2 billion.

Corden Pharma, which employs 2,600 people in 11 manufacturing facilities across Europe and the US, has posted strong growth this year on the back of fast-growing drugs modalities such as messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.

Further down the list, a consortium of US PE firm Carlyle Group and French PE firm PAI Partners agreed to acquire Theramex HQ UK Ltd, a local specialty pharmaceutical company focused on women’s health, from Luxembourg-based PE firm CVC Advisers. The deal, valued at US$1.4 billion, will see Carlyle and PAI target international expansion for the women’s health platform, which expanded to serve more than six million women in 57 countries across EMEA, APAC and South America under CVC’s ownership.

Outlook

While unable to reach the dizzying heights of 2021, healthcare dealmaking in 2022 displayed solid growth compared to pre-2021 levels. This strength was largely due to the trend of large pharma firms—particularly US-based ones—taking advantage of normalizing biotech valuations to replenish their pipelines. Yet historical trends, such as the need to expand into new markets—a trend seen particularly among UK firms—and a continued active interest from PE firms will continue to ensure that plenty of deals change hands into 2023.

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