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Roche Extends Deadline For Spark Acquisition As US, UK Regulators Seek Additional Information

Shanthi Rexaline

Swiss drug giant Roche Holdings AG Basel ADR (OTC: RHHBY) has announced another delay in its proposed takeover of the gene therapy biotech Spark Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ: ONCE).

What Happened

Both companies have received a request for additional information and documentary material from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Roche said, according to CNBC

The expiration date of Roche's offer has been extended from 5 p.m. Friday, June 14 to 5 p.m. July 31, which suggests Spark shareholders now have until July 31 to tender their shares.

It's the fourth time the consummation of the deal has been delayed, with Roche withdrawing its pre-merger notification and report form first on March 18, the second time April 26 and a third time May 14.

Roche announced in late February a deal to buy the U.S. biotech for $4.8 billion, or $114.50 per share in cash.

Roche also said the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority has opened an investigation to obtain further information on the proposed deal to determine if the deal reduces competition in the U.K., warranting a Phase 2 review.

Why It's Important

Roche has a lot riding on the Spark deal given the pharma giant's recent focus on gene therapies.

Spark already has an approved gene therapy, Luxturna, for inherited retinal disease, and more investigational therapies in the pipeline for hemophilia A, hemophilia B, lysosomal storage disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

The deal was originally expected to close in the second quarter of 2019. The most recent delay has made it impossible for the companies to meet the original scheduled completion date.

What's Next

Roche and Spark said they remain committed to the transaction and are working cooperatively and expeditiously with the FTC.

Roche over-the-counter shares were trading up slightly at $34.26 at the time of publication Monday, while Spark shares were down 7.36 percent at $101.30. 

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