Germany to buy 23% stake in CureVac after blocking US purchase

FRANKFURT: Germany will take a stake in unlisted biotech firm CureVac, which is working on a Covid-19 vaccine, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Monday, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

The Berlin government will acquire a 23% stake for €300 million, according to Altmaier, in a deal that values the company at €1.3 billion.

The move followed reported attempts by the US government to acquire CureVac or its assets in March, which stirred a backlash in Berlin, with Altmaier and the interior minister voicing support for keeping CureVac German.

Altmaier said that the government wanted to strengthen the life sciences and biotech sectors in Germany and that Berlin would not have any influence over CureVac’s business strategy.

“The German federal government has decided to invest in this promising company because it expects that this will accelerate development programmes and provide the means for CureVac to harness the full potential of its technology,” said the minister, adding the transaction would not require EU approval.

“With this investment we aim to give CureVac financial security so that it can continue to work on vaccine production with the same commitment,” he told a news conference.

Reuters reported about the German plan to take a stake in CureVac earlier on Monday.

A government source said the move reflected German concerns about relying too much on overseas suppliers for healthcare products and equipment.

Reflecting the sensitivity about ownership of the country’s two coronavirus vaccine developers — CureVac and BioNTech — Berlin gave itself new powers in May to veto hostile foreign takeover bids for healthcare companies.

Dietmar Hopp — co-founder of software firm SAP and owner of a stake of more than 80% in CureVac — said none of the existing CureVac investors would sell shares to the government, and their stakes would be diluted by the deal on a pro-rata basis.