Takeover talk lifts shares in Shire

Shares in Shire hit a record high yesterday on expectations of a takeover as dealmaking sweeps the drugs sector, after Reuters reported the group had hired investment bank Citi as a defence adviser.

Takeover talk lifts   shares in Shire

Potential acquirers are eyeing the pharmaceutical firm’s tax base in this country, where effective corporate tax rates are among the lowest in the world, as well as its fast-growing portfolio of drugs to treat hyperactivity and rare diseases.

Sources said the London-listed company was expecting to receive takeover approaches following a wave of deals in the healthcare sector focused on achieving lower tax bills. Shire and Citi declined to comment.

Shire is a relative rarity in being a mid-sized pharma firm with no controlling shareholder, making it a perennial subject of takeover talk. Speculation of a bid has grown since April, when Pfizer’s interest in acquiring AstraZeneca fired up the wider industry.

Sector bankers think it could appeal to US pharmaceutical and biotech firms such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Amgen, Abbvie, Gilead and Biogen Idec.

Shire itself has been a serial acquirer, buying rare disease specialist Viropharma for $4.2bn (€3.1bn) last November in its biggest deal yet.

One option for the company to try and stay independent would be to step up the pace of its own dealmaking. Industry analysts at Citi said in a note that Shire could make debt-funded acquisitions totalling some $13bn.

There has recently been speculation that Shire might be interested in NPS Pharmaceuticals, although NPS said on June 2 it had not held talks with Shire.

Shire has delivered strong returns for shareholders over the years.

Savvas Neophytou, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, said investors would probably view a takeout price of £40 to £45 as reasonable. “The price of £36 already includes a fair bit of bid speculation.”

The race to strike so-called “inversion” deals offering lower tax rates was underscored at the weekend when US medical device maker Medtronic agreed to buy Covidien for $42.9bn and move its base to Ireland.

- Reuters

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