Shire's $2.4bn oncology sell-off seen as Takeda spoiler

Shire are displayed at a chemist's in northwest London Britain

Shire are displayed at a chemist's in northwest London Britain

The deal with Servier, which is headquartered in France, is expected to close in the second or third quarter of this year.

"While the oncology business has delivered high growth and profitability, we have concluded that it is not core to Shire's longer-term strategy".

Shire was at pains to point out that it started exploring the sale of oncology in December and commenced the disposal process in January, during which it identified multiple possible U.S., European and Japanese buyers.

Ornskov added that the company would consider returning the proceeds to shareholders through a share-buyback "after the current offer period regarding Takeda's possible offer concludes".

"This transaction is a key milestone for Shire, demonstrating the clear value embedded in our portfolio", said Shire chief executive Flemming Ornskov.

Reports over the weekend suggested that Takeda had approached lenders about providing the cash, and that its chief executive was on its way to the United States to meet with top investors ahead of making a potential 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, which was founded in 1781 and employs 30,000 people, has a strong presence in emerging markets and operates in more than 70 countries.

"We will continue to evaluate our portfolio for opportunities to unlock further value and sharpen our focus on rare disease leadership with selective disposals of non-strategic assets". One analyst said that the unit was considered to be non-core for Shire. In 2017, the oncology business generated revenues of $262 million.

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.

Servier said the acquisition will help it achieve its vision of becoming a "global key player" in oncology. "Our goal is to bring these treatments to greater numbers of cancer patients around the world", commented Servier group president Olivier Laureau.

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