Switzerland’s Serono on Friday revealed it has $10 billion on the table to help satiate its new acquisition hungry stance, and is believed to already have received a number of offers. In a conference call, chief executive Ernesto Bertarelli said that in the past he had favoured the licensing in of products, but that the failure of its recent strategic review to find a buyer had led the company to conclude it needs to grow more rapidly via both licensing and acquisition routes.

“We are convinced the best course for Serono is to rely on its own strengths, to invest in our existing businesses, in internal R&D, and to actively pursue opportunities for growth through acquisition and licensing – both to expand the number and size of products we market and to reduce dependence on Rebif (interferon beta-1a for multiple sclerosis),” Mr Bertarelli noted. It also plans to target news areas such as oncology and autoimmune diseases, as well as disorders of the central nervous system.

“Most likely we are going to be looking at the biotech space for acquisitions, but are not excluding small molecules,” Mr Bertarelli added. The company plans to go to shareholders this week to determine whether it will shell out for an acquisition using shares or by raising cash, depending on how the transactions materialise, but he stressed that “without the Bertarelli family losing control we can execute a transaction of about $10 billion - half in shares, about $2 billion liquidity in house and the rest of which we can raise. This shows the firepower in our belly to move forward and look for interesting opportunities,” he concluded.

Analysis of any potential acquisitions is expected to take a few months.

Last week, Serono raised its full year earnings per share guidance to $45.00 on the back of a double-digit boost in first quarter drug sales. Net profits for the first three months of the year jumped 76% to almost $172 million.