King Pharmaceuticals is not going to give up easily in its attempts to acquire Alpharma despite having a $1.4 billion cash offer turned down.

King had made a $33 per share offer for Alpharma, representing a 37% premium over its closing price on August 21, the last trading day prior to public disclosure of King’s proposal. The latter firm initially approached Alpharma in July, and has now made three non-binding acquisition proposals, all of which have been dismissed as inadequate.

Alpharma’s chief executive Dean Mitchell has written to his counterpart at King, Brian Markison, noting that the three bids all come with the same $33 per share price. However he goes on to say that “we offered to provide you with a due diligence opportunity so that we could demonstrate to you the fair and appropriate value for Alpharma”, but King declined to enter into a customary confidentiality agreement “that would enable us to have an orderly evaluation process”.

Mr Mitchell added that “we are willing to entertain a proposal from you that we believe more appropriately values the company’, but the initial response from King suggests that the firm is also prepared to launch a hostile bid. Mr Markison said that “we are prepared to discuss all aspects of our proposal with you, including structure and economics. We have great respect for your organisation and would expect to combine the strengths and competencies of Alpharma’s employees into our company”.

However, Mr Markison then takes the gloves off. He tells Mr Mitchell that “we continue to prefer to work together with you and your board”, but “if we are unable to negotiate a transaction, we are prepared to take this offer directly to your stockholders”.

King is looking to expand its pain management portfolio, hence its interest in Alpharma. Over half of the latter’s revenues come from animal health products but it has some interesting drugs. In the second quarter, Alpharma’s pharmaceutical sales rose 91% to $81.3 million, driven by Kadian (extended-release morphine) and the recently-launched Flector (diclofenac/epolamine) topical patch.

In the same quarter, King posted turnover of $397 million, down 26.9% on the like, year-earlier period. Its key products include Avinza (extended release morphine) and King, through its partner, Pain Therapeutics, recently submitted a New Drug Application in the USA for Remoxy (long-acting oral oxycodone).