Drugmaker Genfit Said to Explore Options Including a Sale

(Bloomberg) -- French drugmaker Genfit is working with advisers to explore options, including a sale of the business, as its treatment for a type of liver disease linked to obesity attracts interest from other pharmaceutical companies, according to people familiar with the matter. The stock jumped the most in more than two months.

The company, which is developing a drug for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH, is also weighing licensing agreements, partnerships or joint ventures, one of the people said, asking not to be identified as the considerations are private. The company is in early discussions with other drugmakers, though the talks may not lead to a deal, the person said. Genfit shares have declined 38 percent this year, giving it a market value of about $654 million.

A spokesman for Genfit declined to comment. The shares rallied 12 percent to 21.88 euros at 9:20 a.m. in Paris, after gaining as much as 16 percent.

Pharmaceutical companies including Sanofi, Novartis AG and Shire Plc may be interested in Genfit, people familiar with the matter said last year. Genfit is developing a drug called elafibranor, and in October raised about 78.5 million euros ($84.6 million) to continue to fund the product.

So far, no treatments have been approved to treat NASH, which is a slow developing disease that occurs when fat accumulates in the liver, causing inflammation and damage. The condition may ultimately lead to cirrhosis. It will be the leading cause of liver transplants by 2020, according to Allergan Plc, which has been acquiring companies developing treatments this year. More than 12 percent of adults in the U.S. may have the condition, according to Genfit.

A number of other companies are also racing to develop treatments for the disease, including Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Gilead Sciences Inc.