Shares in Zeneca sent 35p higher on Roche bid rumours

Shares in Zeneca, the UK's third-largest drugs group, jumped yesterday on renewed speculation that Roche of Switzerland was about to launch a bid worth up to pounds 21bn. The shares, which ended 35p up at pounds 18.51 after being as much as 45.5p higher at one stage, were further boosted by news that Zeneca had beaten off a US patent challenge mounted against its Nolvadex breast cancer drug, the group's fifth best-selling product.

The bid rumour, the latest in a long series, emerged in a report in a Swiss newspaper which suggested that an offer worth pounds 21 to pounds 22 a share would be launched by Roche early next week. Cash, a weekly financial publication, claimed the two companies were in talks and the Basle-based Roche planned to sell off Zeneca's agrochemicals and specialty chemicals operations, keeping only the drugs business.

Neither company would comment yesterday. A representative for Roche said: "We've heard the rumours before and we didn't comment then and we are not commenting now."

The Swiss company has substantial cash resources and is thought to be interested in making acquisitions, but analysts played down the latest twist to what has become a long-running saga. James Dodwell, a pharmaceuticals watcher at Barclays de Zoete Wedd, said the two companies would fit together reasonably well. Roche had a lot of hospital products, while Zeneca's portfolio was strong in drugs targeted at GPs. Zeneca also had a strong franchise in cancer treatments, which Roche lacked, he suggested.

But he said: "Zeneca won't go freely. They want to remain independent and have said they are going to achieve 15 per cent per annum earnings growth for the next five years." Even for Roche, the possible $35bn price tag for the British group would be hard to digest, while the rating might be hard to justify.

The one piece of tangible good news yesterday for Zeneca, headed by chief executive Sir David Barnes, was that a US appeal court had upheld its patent rights over Nolvadex, still the most widely used treatment for breast cancer nearly quarter of a century after its launch. The appeal to the Federal court followed a challenge by Novopharm, a Canadian maker of generic drugs, which had been thrown out by a lower court in Maryland last April. Zeneca said the decision disposed of the proceedings instituted by Novopharm, which had wanted to produce a generic form of the drug.

The decision helps protect Zeneca's US patent until its expiry in 2002, although the company said it would continue patent infringement proceedings against two other companies, Mylan Pharmaceuticals and Pharmachemie, which have submitted applications for generic forms of the drug with America's Food and Drug Administration.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before