Shire share price outperforms as group offloads oncology business

Shire is offloading its oncology unit to France's Servier for $2.4bn in push for rare disease crown

Shire to sell oncology business to Servier for $2.4bn

Takeda had identified oncology, along with gastroenterology and neuroscience, as one of the key therapeutic areas which would benefit from the acquisition.

Shire's board of directors started looking at offloading the oncology business in December, and said that the process considered "multiple potential strategic buyers" across Europe, Japan and the US. Takeda's interest in Shire was made public only at the end of last month.

The UK Takeover Panel gave the Japanese firm a deadline of April 25 to announce a firm intention to bid or walk away.

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Buying Shire would be transformational for Takeda but would be a huge financial stretch, since the company is worth around $10 billion more than the Japanese group.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said last week that Takeda had sounded out its major creditors for loans to fund a potential Shire bid.

Ornskov added that the company would consider returning the proceeds to shareholders through a share-buyback "after the current offer period regarding Takeda's possible offer concludes".

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Shire CEO, Flemming Ornskov, commented: "While the oncology business has delivered high growth and profitability, we have concluded that it is not core to Shire's longer-term strategy.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".

Shire has always been seen as a likely takeover target and was almost bought by US drugmaker AbbVie in 2014, until USA tax rule changes caused it to walk away. In 2017, the oncology business generated revenues of $262 million.

If a deal were to be struck, it would see the hunter become the hunted after Shire itself went on the acquisition trail only two years ago when it bought Baxalta for 32 billion United States dollars (£22.6 billion). The transaction covers the transfer of Shire's in-market products Oncaspar and ex-U.S. rights to Onivyde. The portfolio also includes Calaspargase Pegol (Cal-PEG), which is under FDA review for the treatment of ALL, and early stage immuno-oncology pipeline collaborations.

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