Genzyme (Nasdaq: GENZ) is raising cash to buy shares of its own stock, in a move that will mean taking on debt to gain more control of its shares.

The biotech company reported today that it will sell $1 billion in corporate debt to complete the first part of a $2 billion share-buyback plan. The company is selling $500 million in senior notes at an interest rate of 3.625%, due in 2015, and another $500 million in notes at 5%, due in 2020. Genzyme expects to close on the sale of the notes to institutional buyers on Thursday.

Genzyme's stated motivation for the share buyback plan is to increase shareholder value, and it's a common practice for companies to repurchase shares for that reason. Yet the buyback plan was announced last month amid the company's proxy fight with the activist investor Carl Icahn,  who reached an agreement with Genzyme last week to end the proxy contest in exchange for getting two of his associates appointed to the company's board. While Genzyme hasn't related the stock buyback to Icahn's bid to gain control of the company, the company will increase its control of company stock by taking a significant number of shares out of play.

Last month, the company said it would repurchase $1 billion of its shares in the near term, and spend the second $1 billion to buy shares over the next 12 months.

Genzyme, which is the world's largest maker of drugs for rare genetic diseases, will hold its annual meeting tomorrow. All 10 seats on the board of directors are up for re-election. Plus, the board is expected to appoint three more directors -- including Icahn associates Steven Burakoff and Eric Ende -- bringing the total number of seats on the board to 13. People aren't expecting there to be much drama at the annual meeting, given last week's agreement between Genzyme and Icahn.

But we're planning on being at the annual meeting anyway -- because you never know what might happen.


Ryan McBride is Xconomy's correspondent. You can reach him at, or follow him on Twitter at