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Horizon Discovery rejects £270m offer from Abcam


By Paul Brackley


Abcam CEO Alan Hirzel
Abcam CEO Alan Hirzel

Deal would have brought together two stars of the Cambridge life science cluster

Richard Vellacott, who was interim CEO of Horizon Discovery, returns to chief financial officer
Richard Vellacott, who was interim CEO of Horizon Discovery, returns to chief financial officer

Horizon Discovery has today rejected a £270million takeover bid from Abcam.

The move would have brought together two heavyweights of the Cambridge life science cluster.

Antibody and protein research tool company Abcam, which is building its 100,000 sq ft new HQ for 450 staff on Cambridge Science Park, is expected to continue its interest in the Waterbeach-based gene editing firm.

A statement from the Abcam board said it was “seeking to engage with Horizon Discovery in a constructive dialogue” and believed the move “would accelerate Horizon Discovery’s growth, enhance the capabilities for both businesses and create significant value for researchers through the development of new products and services”.

An artists impression of Abcams new HQ on Cambridge Biomedical Campus
An artists impression of Abcams new HQ on Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Abcam revealed today that it made an offer on April 19 of 181p per share - a 26 per cent premium on the 144p price that Horizon’s shares closed at on Monday. At their peak last year, Horizon shares reached 294p.

Abcam, currently based on Cambridge Science Park, said the offer represented the company “executing its vision to be the most influential life science company for researchers worldwide”.

The firm was co-founded in 1998 by biotech star Jonathan Milner, who is also a co-founder of Horizon, where he remains a shareholder and non-executive director. Abcam confirmed that because of this dual interest he has not been involved in its considerations.

Dr Milner is a close ally of Dr Darrin Disley, who surprised the Cambridge life science community on February 20 by leaving his role as CEO of Horizon to pursue other interests. He had led the firm from a start-up in 2007 to a global gene editing leader, a successful AIM listing and the £85million acquisition of rival Dharmacon from General Electric last year. It has been predicting “near-term profitability”.

Jonathan Milner, co-founder of Abcam and Horizon Discovery
Jonathan Milner, co-founder of Abcam and Horizon Discovery

The Cambridge Research Park-based firm is now being led by interim CEO Richard Vellacott.

Abcam, now led by Alan Hirzel, has a history of acquisitions that started in 2011. It portfolio now includes Oregon-based MitoSciences, Bristol-based Ascent Scientific, California/China-based Epitomics, plus US-based Firefly BioWorks and AxioMx.

The Abcam statement said: “Horizon Discovery has developed extensive capabilities in the gene editing market and the noard of Abcam believes that the combination of Horizon Discovery’s business with Abcam would assist both Abcam and Horizon Discovery to expand their reach and influence globally.

“Further, it believes that the combination would accelerate Horizon Discovery’s growth, enhance the capabilities for both businesses and create significant value for researchers through the development of new products and services. Abcam has a proven track-record of acquiring and successfully integrating businesses.

Darrin Disley, former CEO of Horizon Discovery
Darrin Disley, former CEO of Horizon Discovery

“The board of Abcam therefore believes that the proposal represents a compelling opportunity to drive superior value creation for the shareholders of both companies. Accordingly, Abcam is seeking to engage with Horizon Discovery in a constructive dialogue and is announcing the proposal as a means to encourage and further that process.”

Abcam announced encouraging results for the six months to the end of 2017, including revenue growth of 11.2 per cent on a constant currency basis and profit before tax on a reported basis of £32.8million (£39.3million on an adjusted basis).

Horizon has not commented on the offer.

Abcams new HQ on Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Abcams new HQ on Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Read more

Darrin Disley ends tenure as Horizon Discovery CEO

Topping out ceremony for Abcam on the Biomedical Campus

Biotech star Jonathan Milner on Abcam’s new HQ and the breakthroughs he’s excited about



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