Roche set to walk away from $6.8 billion bid for genetic specialist Illumina

NEW YORK, Wed Apr 18, 2012 – Swiss drugmaker Roche said on Wednesday it would not extend a $6.8 billion hostile offer for genetic specialist Illumina as the U.S. group’s shareholders blocked its move to appoint new directors.

Roche, which is now set to walk away from its takeover target, said an offer above $51.00 per share would not be in the interests of its own shareholders.

The tender offer for Illumina expires on Friday and Roche said it would not extend the bid as the U.S. firm’s management had refused to engage in constructive dialogue.

The decision is a victory for Illumina in its battle to stay independent, although some investors think Roche may wait in the wings for a fresh opportunity to pounce if the U.S. company’s shares underperform.

The gene sequencing specialist, which branded itself “the Apple of the genomics business,” rejected Roche’s sweetened takeover offer and had repeatedly urged shareholders to vote against appointing Roche’s nominees to its board.

“It won’t hurt Roche to send a signal that they can walk away from these deals,” said Navid Malik, an analyst at Cenkos Securities.

Roche, the world’s largest maker of cancer drugs, has been developing targeted therapies and Illumina’s technology would help it to progress further in this field as gene sequencing can better identify which patients benefit from a given drug.

Roche offers $5.7 billion to buy gene firm Illumina

SAN DIEGO – Roche Holding AG is offering $5.7 billion in cash to buy U.S. gene sequencing company Illumina Inc. in an unfriendly takeover bid that marks a major play by the Swiss drugmaker into the gene technology field.

Gene sequencing is central to personalized medicine, which allows scientists to predict a patient’s response to a particular drug, both during clinical practice and in drug trials.

Roche is already the world’s largest maker of cancer drugs, where gene analysis is progressing fastest, as well as a major maker of diagnostic tests.

“This … will help Roche sustain its leadership position in targeted therapies, which we consider as highly promising,” said Bryan Garnier analysts in a research note.

But they added a deal would probably be neutral to earnings in the first year of ownership at the current offer price, which is 18 percent above Illumina’s closing price on Tuesday and over 60 percent above the level before rumors of a bid started, and that Roche might have to raise its offer to secure a deal.

Roche Chief Executive Severin Schwan said the company had no intention of raising its offer for the San Diego-based group that was founded in 1998 and employs just over 2,000 people.

At 4:55 a.m. ET, Roche stock was down 2.2 percent at 161 Swiss francs, lagging a 1.3 percent drop in the European healthcare index as some investors fretted over the cost of a deal.