Peptide takeover talk signals consolidation

The biotech company Peptide Therapeutics Group said yesterday it was in talks which could lead to an offer, in a move signalling consolidation among British vaccine companies.

One person familiar with the situation said both Cantab Pharmaceuticals, which specialises in vaccines like Peptide, and Powderject Pharmaceuticals, a drug delivery firm, were looking closely at the Cambridge-based biotech minnow.

Industry analysts tipped Cantab as the most likely partner - but Peptide and its adviser, Deutsche Bank, were giving nothing away beyond saying the preliminary talks "may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company".

The company's shares jumped as much as 30 per cent after the statement, which confirmed press reports that rivals were eyeing the group, before retracing to close 17.5p, or 17.8 per cent, higher at 116p, valuing it at around £93m.

Cantab, whose shares dipped 3.5 per cent, is worth abut £185m. Powderject, which was off 1 per cent, has a market value of nearly £500m. Both Cantab and Powderject declined to comment.

The Greig Middleton biotech analyst Eva Haas said Cantab - which is seeking critical mass in vaccines - was the most likely of the two potential bidders. But she said the combination would produce a company with many products still some way from market.

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