Roche-Spark Therapeutics deal receives small advance in the UK, but M&A watchers continue to be uneasy

Roche’s pending $4.8bn pick up of Spark Therapeutics has been delayed continuously by the US and UK regulatory agencies. On Wednesday this week, the UKs Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened the public comment for its antitrust investigation of the deal.

So far, the CMA has announced that it will not push the Roche-Spark deal back as far as its US counterpart. This seems very insignificant news, but market watchers’ interest has rocketed as other mega-pharma deals have been started to be met with greater scrutiny from both patient groups and politicians. With the main worry arising that one potential blocked merger based on antitrust grounds would spell inevitable trouble for the other mega pharma deals.

A particular example that had watchers confused and escalated the worry was the Federal Trades Commission (FTC) role in BMS $74bn acquisition of Celgene with a demand that left many investors confused as the FTC ordered Celgene to divest its $1.6bn per year psoriasis med Otezla on the middling grounds of an overlap with a BMS investigational candidate. This left many analysts puzzled particularly as Otezla lacks the star power of marketed rivals such as Humira. Analysts at Jefferies see this as a potential read through that the FTC is being tougher on regulating competition.

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