Shire to Sell Oncology Unit for $2.4 Billion to Servier

The Dublin headquarters of drug-maker Shire

Drugmaker Shire has agreed to sell its oncology business to a French rival, putting into question whether a bid for the FTSE 100 firm from Japanese suitor Takeda will emerge.

Shares in Ireland-based biotech Shire have zoomed up two per cent this morning after it revealed it will sell its oncology business to France's Servier for $2.4bn (£1.7bn) as it seeks to become a leader in rare disease treatment.

Shire's chief executive Flemming Ornskov called the deal a "key milestone" for the firm, which clearly demonstrates the value embedded in its portfolio.

Takeda said earlier this year that it might make an offer for Shire to beef up its core therapeutic areas. The drugmaker said its board will consider using proceeds for a stock buyback after Takeda decides whether to go through with its contemplated offer.

The UK Takeover Panel gave the Japanese firm a deadline of April 25 to announce a firm intention to bid or walk away. Takeda declined to comment further on Monday.

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The proceeds from the transaction, which is expected to close in this or next quarter, would "increase optionality".

According to the company, its board of directors began scouting divestments for the oncology business in December 2017, identifying "multiple potential strategic buyers across the US, Europe and Japan" a month later.

Shire itself also has a track record of acquisitions, but its biggest ever deal - the $32 billion purchase of Baxalta in 2016 - was widely criticised by shareholders. In 2017, the oncology business generated revenues of $262 million. The Irish-headquartered pharma, which has increasingly turned its focus to rare disease in recent years, had rights to chemotherapy agent Oncaspar and pancreatic cancer treatment Onivyde, both of which are on the market.

The portfolio also includes Calaspargase Pegol (Cal-PEG), which is under United States review for the treatment of ALL and early stage immuno-oncology pipeline collaborations, the firm noted.

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