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Roche seeks small deals with ‘no urgency’ to buy rest of Chugai

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(Bloomberg) — A steady flow of small deals makes sense for Roche Holding A.G., and the Swiss drugmaker is in no hurry to buy the rest of Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. that it doesn’t already own, Chief Financial Officer Alan Hippe said.

Roche, the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs, will continue to “fill gaps” in its portfolio and invest in treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Hippe said in an interview in San Francisco, where health executives are attending a JPMorgan Chase & Co. annual conference.

See also: Your money or your life: Brand-name drug prices.

The Swiss drugmaker said this week it will pay more than $1 billion for a majority stake in Foundation Medicine Inc. to get access to genetic tests for tumors and develop new treatments for fighting cancer. That follows purchases last year of InterMune Inc. for about $8.3 billion and Seragon Pharmaceuticals Inc., a developer of breast cancer drugs, for as much as $1.7 billion.

See also: What genetic testing means for life insurers.

“We want to build the pipeline in pharma, we want to fill gaps,” Hippe said. “This continuous flow of rather small acquisitions makes total sense.”

Roche’s top products are cancer drugs, and it has lately struggled to develop big hits in other areas. It said last month that a trial of an experimental medicine for Alzheimer’s had disappointing results. Treatments for the ailment have largely eluded the drug industry.

While Roche is looking for more deals, there is “no urgency” for the company to buy the 40 percent share of Japanese drugmaker Chugai that it doesn’t already own, Hippe said. Roche decided against consolidating Chugai and instead focused on the InterMune acquisition, Bloomberg reported in August, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Chugai has “outgrown the market for quite a while now,” he said. “It’s a very, very beneficial partnership in both directions.”

Roche is pleased to be getting a majority stake in Cambridge, Mass. -based Foundation Medicine because it gives the U.S. company operational independence and room to “perhaps do a couple of acquisitions on their own,” Hippe said.

–With assistance from Makiko Kitamura in London.


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