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Illumina gains on report of higher Roche bid

Illumina Inc. (Nasdaq: ILMN) gained in New York trading after Swiss newspaper L'Agefi said Roche Holding AG may have agreed to buy the U.S. maker of DNA sequencing equipment at a price 48 percent higher than its original unsuccessful bid.

Illumina jumped 7.8 percent to $56.22 at the close in New York, the biggest single-day increase since Jan. 25. The San Diego-based company has gained 85 percent this year amid the takeover talk.

Roche and Illumina management may have agreed last week to a bid at $66 a share, which might be announced in the first half of January, the newspaper said, citing information that "appears trustworthy though couldn't be verified." Alexander Klauser, a spokesman for Basel, Switzerland-based Roche, said the company doesn't comment on "market rumors."

Such a bid would be worth about $8.1 billion, compared with the $6.7 billion price rejected by Illumina in April. Martin Voegtli, an analyst at Kepler Capital Markets, said he thinks the reported bid is "highly unlikely."

"Roche management would lose its face and trust with a renewed $66 bid," he said, adding that nothing has happened in the past eight months to justify such a price increase.

An Illumina spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to phone and email messages.

“We’ve always said that for Roche to go into that business, they would need to be a dominant player,” which would mean paying up for an Illumina or a rival like Life Technologies Corp. (Nasdaq: LIFE), said Peter Lawson, a Mizuho Securities USA analyst in New York who has a “buy” rating on Illumina. He has a $57 price target for the stock.

It could make sense for Roche to try again to negotiate a deal, though at a price closer to its last offer, said Odile Rundquist, an analyst at Helvea in Geneva.

"I'm surprised about the $66 price tag," she said. "I remain skeptical."

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