13 August, 2008

Genentech rejects Roche Buyout, Shares keep climbing

The Pharmaceutical Industry is one that's complex and often difficult for Investors to understand. What with drugs, pipelines, trials, approvals, the FDA, and all the potential dangers, it is a business model built on spending massive amounts of money and taking even greater risks trying to develop medicine.

Drug development is one of the longest and most turbulent processes in capitalism and one doesn't have to look past a few pages in the paper, or a few web news articles these days, to see the problems and successes of drug makers first hand. The science behind medicine is fascinating but what makes this high stakes game of trial and error so lucrative is the fact that it is at its core, incredibly difficult.

So when the Amgen's (AMGN) or the Biogen's (BIIB) or the Genentech's (DNA) have something promising coming down the drug pipeline, doctors, patients and Investors take notice!

Genentech has one such success with Avastin, an FDA approved therapy that is designed to inhibit cancerous tumor growth by blocking the travel of nutrients through blood vessels to the tumor. Avastin is a big seller for Genentech and by accounts it will continue to be a blockbuster for the company. Sales of Avastin are already up to $1.3Billion in 2008, a sizable chunk of the $5.9Billion the company has done in total sales so far this year.

Roche Holdings (RHHBY) offer for Genentech of $89/share was eclipsed briskly in July by traders hoping Genentech would hold out for more. Shares were in the low 90s then and have continued climbing to stand at about $99/share today, the day Genentech officially rejected the buyout. Roche, based in Switzerland, already owns a majority stake in DNA (about 56%) but wants to own it outright, and for this it will have to put up plenty of cash.

The original offer of $43.7Billion for the remaining 44% of Genentech was sternly rejected as being too low, and Roche, it seems, would now have to pay north of triple digits per share to appease shareholders and management. At its current market cap, 44% of DNA works out to $45.7Billion.

To close the deal, I think Roche has to up their bid by as much as 10% from current levels, and that would give Genentech shareholders a lucrative reason to hold on to their shares. But this Investment, much like the Industry the companies find themselves in, is ever-changing and high-risk. For holders of DNA, the bottom's been set and rejected at $89/share, which should let you sleep a little easier, so continue to hold. Buyers beware as "buy high, sell higher" should work with this trade, but even so, the returns wont break open any portfolio.

Disclosure: Author holds no position in any of the mentioned companies

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