Crucial days for Fisons

Crucial days

for Fisons

The most interesting element of yesterday's final defence document from Fisons was a piece of trivia. To reinforce its case, Fisons quotes Fred Franks, head of the healthcare sector at Lehmans, as saying that the sale by Fisons of its research and development arm is a paradigm for other medium-sized European drugs companies to follow. The fact that Mr Franks is husband to the woman heading the bidding advisory team from Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, though wholly irrelevant, provides some light amusement.

But that is a sideshow to the bid, as unfortunately for Stuart Wallis, chief executive of Fisons, is much of yesterday's document. The three drug deals it unveiled will not add much if anything to earnings before the end of the decade. In the meantime, rivals will not be standing still. Already, for instance, Zeneca and SmithKline Beecham are producing a more patient-friendly tablet form of the leukotriene antagonist asthma treatment which Fisons has now signed up to develop for use in its inhaler with Ciba-Geigy. Meanwhile, the forecast that underlying profits from pharmaceuticals - the bit Fisons will be left with if all the current disposals go through - will top pounds 118m this year hardly comes as a surprise to the market.

To be fair to Mr Wallis, he never promised any white knights or a blockbuster deal and has consistently refused to be deflected in his strategy by the attentions of RPR. There is no reason to believe that, left to his own devices, more substantial joint venture deals would not follow the start made yesterday. But he looks unlikely to get the chance.

This coming week will be crucial. RPR has until Friday to revise its bid terms. It will be frantically canvassing the views of the institutions over the coming days. The message it is likely to receive is that a further 20p a share might clinch it.

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