Monday 16 December 2019 8:08 am

CMA clears $4.3bn Roche-Spark deal as US drags feet

Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche today won UK regulatory approval for its $4.3bn merger with gene therapy firm Spark Therapeutics.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) unconditionally cleared the tie-up in the latest milestone in Roche’s $114.5 per share offer.

Read more: Roche faces fresh delay in $4.3bn Spark merger

The deal had faced intense scrutiny from both US and UK regulators, forcing Roche to extend its deadline for the offer’s acceptance from 14 June.

Regulators were concerned the acquisition would give Roche, which already owns rare blood disease treatment firm Hemlibra, an unfair advantage over rivals in the profitable rare disease market.

Today the CMA found the deal would not impact competitors, though the US’ Federal Trade Commission has still not declared its own decision despite the offer acceptance period running out today.

That means Roche may need to extend its offer yet again, though the CMA said itr had “cooperated closely” with its US counterpart.

“While gene therapy treatments are likely to compete with Roche’s Hemlibra in future, the CMA found that Spark is not the only supplier developing a gene therapy treatment and that its products are not currently considered to hold any particular clinical or commercial advantages over those being developed by other suppliers,” the CMA said today.

“The CMA’s investigation also found that there are several innovative non-gene therapy products under development that are likely to become viable alternatives to Roche and Spark’s treatments.

“The CMA therefore found that the deal between Roche and Spark would not negatively affect competition because UK health services and patients will still have an adequate choice of alternatives.”

The deal, which was first announced in February, has dragged on under the microscope of the two regulators.

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Roche hopes its acquisition of US-based Spark would provide it with an entrypoint into the gene therapy market.

Its own Hemlibra is set to beat $1bn in sales in 2019.