$4.3 billion deal put on hold for the fifth time –– perhaps until spring 2020.
Roche initially made the offer to acquire Spark Therapeutics for $4.3 billion back in February 2019, but the deal is being held up by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is investigating the acquisition. Roche recently announced another delay, indicating that the deal could even be put off until as late as April of 2020. It is still hoping for closure by the end of this year, however.
Neither the companies involved nor the FTC have provided any comments on the reasons for the delays. Analysts assume that the FTC is seeking to identify any potential overlaps between Spark’s experimental hemophilia treatments and Roche’s newly launched Hemlibra. The deal is also now being investigated by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.
While it is unlikely, given the competition in the hemophilia market and the fact that gene therapies operate by totally different mechanisms than more traditional treatments, such as the antibody-based drug Hemlibra, analysts are concerned about the impact of such delays on future possible gene therapy M&A activity. Deals that at first glance seem to be straightforward are now potentially riskier. Companies with late-stage gene therapy programs, like uniQure and BioMarin, who may have been hoping for an M&A deal, may now need to consider divesting their programs instead.