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Elan tees up deals as sales of prized drug rise sharply

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish drugmaker Elan Corp said it is teeing up a number of deals under a plan to reshape the company through acquisitions and stave off a bid from investment firm Royalty Pharma.

Elan, involved in a convoluted takeover saga with Royalty for the past two months, had on Monday rejected a reduced $11.25 per share bid from Royalty, saying it grossly undervalued its prospects.

The Dublin-based company also said on Wednesday that sales of Tysabri, the multiple sclerosis drug whose royalty stream Royalty wants to get its hands on through its bid, rose by 14 percent year-on-year to $456 million in the first quarter.

While shareholders wait to see if Royalty values lucrative revenue tied to the blockbuster drug enough to come back with a higher bid, Elan indicated how it plans to spend the $2 billion it has at its disposal.

Chief Executive Kelly Martin reiterated the company would seek to diversify away from its neurological focus and that some of its initial deals would be immediately accretive to earnings, with others likely to be investments in experimental treatments.

"When the market hears from us about the first phase of re-allocation, it should look for a collection of different things, not just one big transaction," Martin told an analyst call.

"There clearly are some interesting commercial pieces of the equation that we would like to add, one of the things we want to do is make sure the P&L (profit and loss) continues to be robust and grows," Martin added.

"That would imply directly that commercial activities would be part of the equation, but we want to maintain a balance, there are some interesting late-stage clinical assets that from a risk/reward point of view would be interesting investments."

SPENDING PLANS

Martin said he would not put any specific timeline on when phase one of Elan's acquisition plan would be unveiled, but said Royalty's bid would not preclude it from doing so as soon as the package is ready.

Elan's spending plans are a result of it selling its 50 percent interest in Tysabri to U.S. partner Biogen Idec in February for $3.25 billion plus royalty rights.

Under the deal, Elan's royalty payments will be 12 percent of sales in the first year, 18 percent after that and 25 percent when annual sales rise above $2 billion. A fifth of the royalty stream will be paid out to shareholders under a dividend plan outlined shortly after the Royalty approach.

Elan also returned $1 billion to shareholders last week in a share buyback that resulted in U.S. healthcare firm Johnson & Johnson cutting its stake in the company to 4.9 percent from 18 percent.

Sales of Tysabri rose to $1.6 billion last year and Biogen has long aimed to increase patient numbers over time to 100,000 from 72,700 at the end of last year. Analysts at Berenberg Bank see sales hitting $2 billion in the first half of next year.

It said on Wednesday sales of the drug, which competes with oral drugs such as Novartis AG's Gilenya and Biogen's new Tecfidera pill, rose 28 percent in the United States but by just 0.3 percent elsewhere, after a further $13.9 million of revenue was deferred in Italy.

Elan also posted a $72.8 million first-quarter net loss from continuing operations, which did not include any revenue associated with Tysabri.

Its shares were little moved, trading up 0.5 percent at $12.05 by 1430 GMT in New York.

(Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford and David Holmes)

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