Reducing Reliance on Cancer Drugs Roche Acquires US Biotech Firm

Reducing Reliance on Cancer Drugs, Roche Acquires US Biotech Firm

The Swiss group's purchase is part of a move to lessen its reliance on its bedrock anti-cancer drugs, and move to the lung disease sector with purchase the of InterMune. 

ZURICH -- Shares in pharmaceutical group Roche (IW 1000/85) rose on Monday after the Swiss giant announced an $8.3-billion takeover of U.S. firm InterMune, boosting its role in the lung disease sector and reducing its reliance on cancer drugs.

With analysts saying that the high price paid by Roche for the California biotechnology company would be worthwhile eventually, the group's stock rose by 0.38% to 262.25 Swiss francs ($286.92) in Zurich.

Roche's announcement late on Sunday of a $74-per-share deal with InterMune corresponded to a premium of 38% on the Californian firm's Friday closing price, the Swiss group said.

"We are very pleased that we reached this agreement with InterMune. Our offer provides significant value to InterMune's shareholders and this acquisition will complement Roche's strengths in pulmonary therapy," said Roche CEO Severin Schwan.

"We look forward to welcoming InterMune employees into the Roche Group and to making a difference for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a devastating disease," he said.

InterMune's flagship medicine pirfenidone has already won approval in the European Union and Canada as a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and is under regulatory review in the United States.

IPF causes a progressive loss of lung function due to fibrosis, or scarring, and can be fatal.

Roche is already present in the sector thanks to its drugs Pulmozyme and Xolair, and has other therapeutic medicines targeting respiratory diseases in the pipeline.

The Swiss group's purchase is part of a move to lessen its reliance on its bedrock anti-cancer drugs, noted Rainer Skierka, an analyst at the bank J. Safra Sarasin.

"Given InterMune's financials, Roche will pay a hefty premium for InterMune's business," he said.

However, "the medium-term potential of InterMune's flagship products, when they come to the market, and Roche's step to reduce its oncology dependence by diversifying into immunology, justifies the premium which Roche will have to pay," he added.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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