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LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - Shire, the London-listed rare diseases specialist that is a potential takeover target for Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical, is selling its oncology business to unlisted French drugmaker Servier for $2.4 billion.
Shire said on Monday it would consider returning proceeds from the sale to shareholders through a buyback and that further selective disposals of non-strategic assets were possible.
The divestment of the cancer business may be a deterrent for Takeda, since oncology was one disease area that Japan's biggest pharmaceuticals company had highlighted as benefiting from an acquisition.
Under UK takeover rules, Takeda has until April 25 to announce whether or not it will bid for Shire, which has a market value of around $47 billion.
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.
The drugs industry has seen a surge in deal-making this year as large players look for promising assets to improve their pipelines, but a Takeda-Shire transaction would be by far the biggest yet.
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. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler and Sarah Young Editing by Kate Holton/Keith Weir)