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Drug maker Onyx explores sale after rebuffing Amgen

NEW YORK — Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Sunday that it is weighing a sale of itself, after having rejected an unsolicited $10 billion takeover bid by Amgen Inc. last week as too low.

The company said in a statement that Amgen had proposed paying $120 a share in cash, a 38 percent premium to Onyx’s closing price on Friday. The biopharmaceutical drug maker said it has hired the investment bank Centerview Partners to contact possible suitors.

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A sale of Onyx would be the latest deal in the health care industry, one of the busiest for mergers and acquisitions in recent years. The sector shows few signs of slowing down: About $93.5 billion worth of transactions were announced in the first half of this year, up 13 percent from the same time last year, according to data from Thomson Reuters.

One big factor in that merger upswing is drug manufacturers’ big appetite for biopharmaceutical companies, hoping to use their specialized products to refill their product pipelines as older offerings face pressure from generic competitors.

Onyx sells or helps sell three cancer drugs, two of which won approval in 2012, broadening its portfolio and making it more attractive to potential acquirers.

Its oldest drug, which it sells with Bayer, is Nexavar, which is approved to treat liver and kidney cancers. Last year, Bayer won approval for Stivarga to treat colorectal cancer. Onyx helps sell that drug in the United States and gets a royalty on global sales.

Onyx also won approval last year for its first wholly owned drug, a treatment for multiple myeloma called Kyprolis.

“Onyx has tremendous momentum and, with the expansion of our pipeline and two successful product launches, the company and our talented employees have created significant value for Onyx shareholders,” N. Anthony Coles, Onyx’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “We are actively exploring the potential to combine Onyx with another company as an option to create additional value for Onyx shareholders.”

In 2012, Onyx had total revenue of $362.2 million and a net loss of $187.8 million using generally accepted accounting principles.

Onyx’s share of the revenue from Nexavar was $288.4 million, about the same as the year before. Sales of Kyprolis, which was approved in July, were $64 million.

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