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    With AbbVie merger dead, Shire focuses on future

    The chief executive of Shire PLC, which has major operations in Massachusetts, said Friday that his company’s prospects remain bright despite the recent collapse of a $55 billion merger with another biopharmaceutical company.

    AbbVie Inc., based near Chicago, dropped its bid for Shire on Monday, after new federal regulations made it harder for the company to cut its tax burden through the merger.

    “It would have been a great deal for the shareholders, but Shire is [already] a great deal for shareholders,” Shire’s chief executive, Dr. Flemming Ornskov, said in an interview with the Globe. “This is a high-growth, very profitable business.”


    Ornskov said he expects both the company and its Massachusetts workforce to grow over the next year as it develops drugs for rare diseases, attention deficit disorder, and gastrointestinal disorders. Shire already has about 1,350 employees in Lexington, where Ornskov is also based.

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    Ornskov said the company also is hunting for acquisitions to help it achieve its ambitions of becoming a leader in an elite group of biotech companies that includes Biogen Idec of Cambridge, Amgen Inc. of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Celgene Corp. of Summit, N.J.

    “We’re always scouting for partnerships . . . in Boston and around the world,” Ornskov said. He declined to comment on reports Shire may move to acquire Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., a maker of antibiotics and Shire’s neighbor in Lexington.

    This summer, Shire was courted by AbbVie, best known for the arthritis drug Humira. Shire rejected several bids from AbbVie before agreeing to the $55 billion deal, which included a 53 percent premium. AbbVie has research and development facilities in Worcester,

    AbbVie had planned, through the merger, to change its address to the British Island of Jersey, where Shire is incorporated, so it could cut its tax rate by nearly two-thirds. But new Treasury rules have made it less lucrative for American companies to pursue such deals, known as tax inversions.


    AbbVie’s executives initially said the merger was about creating a strong, diversified company, not just cutting its tax bill. But last week, it became clear how important the tax benefits were: “The agreed-upon valuation is no longer supported as a result of the changes to the tax rules,” said AbbVie’s chief executive, Richard A. Gonzalez.

    Shire’s revenues soared 32 percent, to $1.6 billion, in the three-month period ending Sept. 30. Profit for the quarter rose to $480 million, up from $278 million.

    Shire’s top-selling drugs include Vyvanse, a drug for ADHD, and Lialda, which treats ulcerative colitis. The company has set a goal of doubling annual sales to $10 billion by 2020.

    Analysts said Shire will do fine as a standalone company.

    “Moving forward for Shire, they still have a lot of options,” said Christopher Leo, senior vice president at Back Bay Life Science Advisors, a Boston consulting firm. “They’ll be very aggressive in terms of their own merger and acquisition and licensing activity, particularly in the rare disease space.”


    Its brisk growth and diverse suite of products have made it an attractive acquisition target in recent years, but Ornskov said seeking a merger with another big pharma company is not a priority.

    AbbVie paid Shire $1.6 billion for the sudden breakup, and Ornskov said he has moved on. “I’m focused on the future, not the past,” he said.

    Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.