Roche Still Chasing Genentech


Genentech investors who were hoping Roche would shed a little more light on the status of its proposed acquisition of the biotech giant might have hung up from the Swiss drugmaker's conference call a little disappointed.

But apparently Roche, which trades on the Swiss stock exchange and only over-the-counter in the U.S., said just enough to generate some enthusiasm.

DNAshares are rallying, but they're still staying well below the $89 mark that Roche has already offered and that Genentech has said was too little. In their earnings press release and on their conference call this morning, Roche officials refused to give any specifics. They'd only say they remain "totally committed" to the Genentech offer and wouldn't make any comments or answer any questions about a "negotiated agreement" or its ability to finance the deal. Unlike the Genentech earnings conference call where at least a couple analysts tried to pry a nugget out of DNA officials, the analysts on the Roche call completely avoided the topic after the new CEO said at the outset that he and his colleagues wouldn't have anything more to say.

So many analysts, investors and reporters dialed into the Roche call this morning after it had started that one company official later repeated for the benefit of the latecomers that it isn't going to show its hand. Something some analysts and investors were banking on would force Roche to come back with a much higher offer didn't pan out Sunday night when Genentech announced thetest of Avastin as an add-on drug for colon cancer will continue through the end. At least a couple of analysts were speculating the clinical trial might be stopped after a sneak peek at the data they thought might show the drug is working so well that there'd be no need to keep going. That didn't happen. Some believe if or when Avastin is approved for that use that it could add hundreds of millions of dollars in additional annual revenue.

    • Drugmakers post healthy results
    • Roche sales up 1.6 percent in third quarter

Despite the higher cost of borrowing, the decline in the value of the Swiss franc and the increase in the value of the dollar that have occurred since Roche first came forward, the company apparently still has the wherewithal and the good credit to do the more expensive deal. What do you think?

Questions? Comments?