Shares in US drugmaker Axcan Pharma reached new heights yesterday as investors revelled in the news that the firm is being taken over by a private equity group for $1.3 billion in cash.

TPG Capital is heading up the group that has agreed to buy Axcan for $23.35 a share, marking a 28% premium to its closing price on November 28. The move sent the latter’s stock up nearly 25% to close at $22.70 last night on the Nasdaq after a day of frenzied trading, which saw almost 12 million shares exchange hands.

Axcan’s board of directors has unanimously approved the agreement, which, its president and chief executive officer Frank Verwiel claims, “provides compelling value and certainty to our shareholders”.

He went on to say that the board believes “this is the best way to maximise value while providing the company with long-term partners who share our commitment to patients and employees”, and, explaining the advantages of hooking up with TPG, said it will allow the company to continue its focus “on the development of innovative, high-quality medical products and become an even stronger partner to health professionals in the gastrointestinal arena”.

Axcan is a pharmaceutical company focused on the development of treatments for GI disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, cholestatic liver diseases and complications related to pancreatic insufficiency.

Q4 sales up nearly 28%
The group sells its products in North America via its own specialised salesforces, and generated revenues of $92.5 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007, a 27.9% increase over the year-earlier period. Net income more than doubled to $16.8 million, but included a $10.0 million-provision for the upfront payment related to the in-licensing of Cx401, a biological product in development for the treatment of perianal fistulas.

Commenting on the results, Verwiel said: “Our fourth-quarter performance was exceptionally strong, as we realised significant increases in revenue across all product groups, mainly driven by high prescription growth…we are truly excited about the prospects and growth opportunities across the company in 2008 and, based on our current outlook, fiscal 2008 should be an exciting time for Axcan, both from a customer and shareholder perspective.”