Friday, 20 April, 2018

Shire share price outperforms as group offloads oncology business

Shire are displayed at a chemist's in northwest London Britain Shire are displayed at a chemist's in northwest London Thomson Reuters
Russell Knight | 16 April, 2018, 14:43

Shire Plc agreed to sell its cancer unit to France's Servier SAS for $2.4 billion, tightening the US -based drugmaker's focus on rare diseases and potentially making it more attractive to Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. as it considers a bid.

Shares in Shire jumped nearly 2 per cent before drifting back slightly after it announced the $2.4 billion (£1.68 billion) sale to Servier, with onlookers unclear whether it would help or hinder an acquisition by Takeda.

The oncology unit sale is expected to close in the second or third quarter of the year and Shire boss Flemming Ornskov said the firm would "consider returning the proceeds of the sale to shareholders through a shareholder-approved share buyback after the current offer period regarding Takeda's possible offer for Shire concludes".

"We will continue to evaluate our portfolio for opportunities to unlock further value and sharpen our focus on rare disease leadership with selective disposals of non-strategic assets".

The agreement comes as Takeda's chief executive Christophe Weber is reported to be in the USA canvassing investor support for a potential bid for Shire, and will no doubt complicate attempts to put a fair value on the business with just a few days to go before the Japanese company must propose an offer or press pause for six months as required under European Union takeover laws.

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According to United Kingdom takeover rules, Takeda must now either make an offer for Shire or walk away by April 25. A Takeda spokesman declined to comment. Oncology is therefore a small part of Shire's business, but was highlighted by Takeda as one of three therapeutic categories that could be bolstered by merging the two companies.

Takeda has approached lenders including Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.to ask them about financing the proposed acquisition, Bloomberg reported earlier this month, citing people with knowledge of the situation.

Shire's London-listed shares were up as much as 1.8pc at the start of trading. Shire's board began considering a sale of the oncology business in December.

Still, given the small contribution of the cancer business to Shire's overall profits, Deutsche Bank analysts said this was unlikely to be a deal breaker.

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