Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

A Turning Point For Termeer?


Carl Icahn, reputed to be a late-riser, woke up to good news and bad news today.

First the bad news: His stake in Genzyme is worth less. The good news? His chances of winning a proxy fight against the embattled biotech might be greater.

For those who aren't familiar with the company, Genzyme is kind of unique in that it has been built around drugs for rare diseases that few, if any, other companies bother with. And then it charges a pretty penny for them.

As Bernstein analyst Geoffrey Porges wrote in a research note to clients, "The case for activist involvement, including restructuring of the company and changes to top management, is now stronger than ever." Icahn has nominated himself and three of his people to be on the GENZ Board of Directors because he thinks the formerly high-flying biotech stumbled big time last year when its Boston manufacturing plant got contaiminated by a virus. I bloggedabout the plant when the company gave did a little show-and-tell tour before my interview with the comapny's chairman and CEO Henri Termeer a few months ago.

The reason some believe Icahn picked up points today is that Genzyme disclosed this morning that the FDA is taking enforcement action against the plant, which it expects to lead to the ultimate FDA penalty, including the "disgorgement" of past and future profits, plus other costs. 

On a conference call, Genzyme's Termeer said he expected the exact amount of a potential fine to be worked out with the FDA over the next month or so. Some analysts say it's too soon to tell how much this mess will end up costing the company, but Porges already pegs it at $200-$300 million.

On the call, one analyst asked Termeer what this means for his fight with Icahn.  He responded, "It's very important for us to be completely focused on getting the marketplace resupplied (with its drugs) and implementing changes that allow us to get this behind us, so we can move forward rather than having a great set of distractions hit us at the same time." Termeer might wish the distraction would go away.  But that ain't gonna happen.  The Icahn vs.Termeer fight card, er, shareholder meeting, is May 20th.  Buy your share now if you want a ringside seat.

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