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Roche denies any intent to buy Bayer unit

Roche headquarters in Basel


Swiss pharmaceuticals group Roche has denied reports that it intended to buy German group Bayer or its drugs business.

The Basel-based company said in a statement on Tuesday that it has not held talks with Bayer about an acquisition or agreed to a meeting with the German company.

Roche said it did not normally comment on market rumours, but made an exception in this case "to avoid the spread of further speculation generated by the detailed comments of unknown sources."

Rumours about a proposal started to fly late on Monday after published reports that Roche had offered to buy the German group's pharmaceuticals business for $20 billion (SFr33.48 billion).

The sources said Bayer, which recently suffered a severe setback when it had to withdraw its anti-cholesterol drug, Baycol, was expected to discuss the proposal at a meeting with its supervisory board on September 13.

Not "good fit"?

Zurich Kanontalbank's pharmaceutical analyst Patrick Burgermeister had told swissinfo earlier on Tuesday that he believed a Roche bid for Bayer was unlikely.

"From the drugs point of view we don't think Bayer is the optimal fit for Roche because Bayer's biggest selling drug is an antibiotic and the same is true for Roche - so they would compete against each other," said Burgermeister.

"The second biggest drug from Bayer has already lost its patent potential and its number three drug (Baycol) has been removed from the market."

Roche has been under pressure to revitalize its drug business following serious product setbacks in recent years and a slowdown in sales growth - which was five per cent in the first half of 2001, below the industry average of 10 per cent.

swissinfo with agencies

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