QLT Inc. agreed to acquire Aegerion Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Cambridge and create a new company backed with fresh capital from investors, a deal that will boost struggling Aegerion and help QLT bring experimental drugs to market.
Under an agreement announced Wednesday, Vancouver-based QLT will swap 1.0256 shares of its stock for each of share of Aegerion. When the transaction is completed, QLT will change the combined company’s name to Novelion Therapeutics Inc.
While QLT shareholders will own roughly 60 percent of Novelion, the deal is being billed as a “merger of equals” because the new biotech will be led by Aegerion’s chief executive, Mary Szela.
Novelion will be based in Vancouver, where QLT has 22 employees, but its business operations will be in Cambridge, where Aegerion has 230 employees.
“It’s a good fit between the companies,” said Szela, who took over at 11-year-old Aegerion at the start of this year. “We’ve been going through a big transition and I offered a roadmap for the company to become profitable next year. That’s what this deal allows us to do.”
Novelion will get a $22 million infusion from a group of new and existing investors, boosting its cash pile to more than $100 million. It will manage two rare disease drugs already on the market — Algerian’s cholesterol-lowering drug Juxtapid and Myalept drug to treat patients with fat cell deficiency — and take over a late-stage QLT rare disease development program to treat an inherited retinal disease in children.
The new company will have a 10-member board consisting of four representatives from QLT, four from Aegerion, and one each from Sarissa Capital Management of Greenwich, Conn., and Broadfin Capital of New York, two hedge funds that are new investors.
Investors bid up the prices of both companies, with Aegerion’s stock jumping 29 percent to $1.72 and shares of QLT climbing 6.3 percent to $1.52.
Stock analysts said Novelion will have the potential to generate more than $500 million in overall sales globally if the QLT drug candidate is approved.
The transaction “appears to provide valuable synergies for both companies and we believe is a productive next step toward the turnaround for Aegerion,” Joseph Schwartz, an analyst for Boston investment bank Leerink Partners, wrote in a note to investors. “Novelion is well-positioned to be stronger than the sum of Aegerion’s and QLT’s parts.”
Szela has been pursuing a turnaround at Aegerion after the resignation of her predecessor, Marc Beer.
In a preliminary agreement with the Justice Department last month, the Cambridge company agreed to pay a $40 million fine over five years to settle a federal investigation into its sales practices for Juxtapid. Beer was also cited in a letter from the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 for exaggerating Juxtapid’s benefits in a television appearance.
The company cut 80 jobs in February as part of a restructuring driven in part by increased competition from new rival cholesterol medicines.