Roche Delays Spark Buyout Again as U.S. and U.K. Regulators Continue to Review the Deal

Delay

Days after Roche announced the endorsement by Federal Trade Commission Staff for its $4.8 billion buyout of Spark Therapeutics, the Swiss pharma giant announced another extension on the deal’s deadline. This marks the eighth such extension for the deal.

This morning, Roche pushed the deal date back to Nov. 25, beyond the current tender offer deadline of Oct. 30.

Roche said the new extension will provide additional time for the FTC and the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority to complete their reviews of the acquisition. Roche said that as of close of business on Monday, Oct. 28, it had acquired more than 7 million shares of Spark, which represents approximately 20.3% of Spark’s outstanding shares.

Roche insists that both companies remain committed to the deal and are “working cooperatively and expeditiously” with the two agencies. During a conference call earlier this summer, Roche Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan said the deal was taking longer than he hoped but that has not diminished his excitement over the partnership between the two companies.

Last week, Roche announced that the FTC staff greenlit the acquisition after focusing attention on the hemophilia treatments in the pipelines of both companies. Spark’s gene therapy treatment has been seen as a complement to Roche’s line of drugs for the bleeding-disorder, including Hemlibra, he only prophylactic treatment for people with hemophilia A with and without factor VIII inhibitors that can be administered subcutaneously and also includes a dosing regimen up to once every four weeks. Data from Spark’s hemophilia gene therapy, SPK-8011, showed a one-time treatment yielded a 97% response rate in reduced bleeding events in patients.

However, there had been concern that Spark could have been forced to sell that asset prior to a merger due to concerns regarding a potential monopoly of the market. Similar concerns prompted Bristol-Myers Squibb and Celgene to offload psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis treatment Otezla for $13.4 billion ahead of the merger of those companies.

Although the FTC staff approved the merger, there are still additional obstacles at the FTC. Officials at the FTC’s Bureau of Competition must give their approval, as must the FTC chairman and four commissioners. In the U.K., the CMA must sign off on the deal. A preliminary decision is expected in the middle of December, which makes it seem likely that Roche will extend its tender offer further, particularly if any additional antitrust concerns arise.

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