jueves, 31 de marzo de 2011

NOVARTIS ataca de nuevo...?

Ben Adams

could be vulnerable to a takeover from its Swiss rival Novartis after changes in its boardroom.

The Roche family group has held a controlling 50.01% stake in the company for generations, but this has now dropped to 45.01% after Maja Oeri, a descendant of Fritz Hoffman La-Roche, left the family pool.

She now holds her 5% stake independently of the family, ending an agreement that has existed for over 60 years.

Novartis owns a third of Roche’s voting rights, and could make another takeover bid for the company after an unsuccessful attempt in 2004.

Roche had a difficult year in 2010, after its biggest seller Avastin had its US licence for breast cancer use rescinded, while price pressures in developed markets forced it to lower its forecast for 2011.

The company has also been hit by a number of late-stage failures including its phase III diabetes drug taspoglutide. Nevertheless, Roche remains one of the most dynamic of the industry’s major companies, and dismissed the renewed talk of a takeover bid.

Speaking to Swiss newspaper the SonntagsZeitung, Roche’s spokesman Andre Hoffman refuted the speculation, saying that Roche was “not for sale”.

“In our view, a merger between Roche and Novartis makes even less sense today than it did five or 10 years ago.

“The two companies have positioned themselves strategically very differently: Novartis continues to concentrate on eye care and generics whilst Roche focuses on personalised medicine with innovative pharmaceuticals and diagnostics.

“Put simply, it does not match,” Hoffman concluded.

Novartis is unlikely to make an immediate bid as it has recently spent $13 billion on acquiring ophthalmology company Alcon to make it the leading eye care specialist in the world.

Analysts at Helvea however have said that a long-term acquisition could be on the cards given the attractive nature of Roche and its impressive oncology pipeline.

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