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Prostate Cancer Drug Maker Medivation May Draw Takeover Interest

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An analyst says the biotech company may fetch a 55% premium in a buyout.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL With a more than 300% rise in Medivation's (MDVN) stock over the past year, how can this clinical-stage biotech company jump any higher in value?

Takeover speculation.

That's the thinking from Jefferies analyst Biren Amin, who predicts that Medivation can fetch a 55% premium in a takeover by a large drug or biotechnology rival. Shares of Medivation are up almost 90% since January, trading at $86.24 midday Tuesday.

The hype: Medivation's experimental drug enzalutamide is highly regarded in the medical and investment communities. Many investors expect the drug will win US approval and can compete with Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) Zytiga and Dendreon's (DNDN) Provenge. Medivation seeks approval for treating men who received chemotherapy and is studying the drug in pre-chemo patients, a bigger patient market. Following a highly influential medical meeting, the drug took on an even higher profile. (See Medivation, Bristol-Myers Emerge as Winners After Big Cancer Meeting.)

Japanese drug maker Astellas is helping develop the drug with Medivation and will share US sales of enzalutamide if approved by the Food and Drug Administration. While Astellas seems like a logical candidate to take over Medivation, Amin says he believes there's a clause in the development partnership that would make that difficult near term, a claim that couldn't immediately be confirmed by the companies. Amin says a so-called standstill agreement between the companies has been discussed on Medivation's earnings conference calls. Through a spokesman, Medivation declined to comment on any takeover speculation.

J&J is another likely candidate to buy Medivation if it doesn't run into government antitrust concerns for having a competing prostate cancer drug, Amin says. Sanofi (SNY) and Amgen (AMGN) are two other possible suitors given their interest in prostate cancer treatment, but any major pharmaceutical maker who wants to compete in this area of therapy may be a possible acquirer, he says.

The analyst assumes a cash transaction that would include a significant amount of cost cutting. He predicts a takeover price of as much as $134 per share, which is about a 55% increase from where the stock is trading.

While Dendreon is also a possible takeover candidate, Amin says he sees Medivation as a "meaningfully more compelling acquisition target."

Big drug companies need to build on their product portfolios as patent lives run out on blockbuster treatments. But the big guys also have been selective when it comes to biotech buyouts. There were 57 takeovers of US and European biotech companies last year -- up from 49 in 2010 -- and big pharmaceutical companies were the buyers in seven of those deals, according to a just-released report by Ernst & Young.

Twitter: @brettchase

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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