Roche to buy U.S. biotech firm InterMune for $8.3 billion

Mon Aug 25, 2014 4:31am EDT
 
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By Ben Hirschler and Caroline Copley

LONDON/ZURICH (Reuters) - Roche Holding AG has agreed to buy U.S. biotech company InterMune Inc for $8.3 billion in cash, helping the world's leading maker of cancer drugs expand into the treatment of rare or incurable diseases.

Roche's efforts to produce successful non-cancer drugs from its own labs have been mixed, with setbacks in recent years for experimental drugs against heart disease, diabetes and schizophrenia.

The Swiss drugmaker already markets Pulmozyme for cystic fibrosis and Xolair for severe asthma in the United States and has other experimental respiratory products in clinical development, including another severe asthma drug called lebrikizumab.

The InterMune deal brings it a promising new drug, pirfenidone, for treating a progressive and ultimately fatal scarring condition of the lungs. Pirfenidone is approved for so-called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in Europe and Canada, and is undergoing U.S. regulatory review.

Roche said on Sunday it would pay $74.00 a share through a tender offer for InterMune, representing a premium of 38 percent to the closing price on Aug. 22 and a 63 percent premium over Aug. 12 when takeover speculation around the stock began to circulate. The acquisition, which has been recommended by the boards of both companies, is the largest by Roche since 2009, when it bought out the remaining stake it did not already own in U.S. group Genentech for around $47 billion.

Analysts described InterMune's price tag as "hefty" given it only has one marketed product in a field that is likely to become increasingly competitive over time.

But Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson, who rates the stock 'outperform,' praised the decision to beef up outside oncology as a "smart tactical move."

Industry analysts expect pirfenidone, which is given as a pill, to have sales of $1.04 billion in 2019, according to consensus forecasts compiled by Thomson Reuters Pharma.   Continued...

 
The logo of Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche is seen outside the Shanghai Roche Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. headquarters in Shanghai May 22, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song