Onyx staffers to get word on layoffs 30 days after Amgen deal wraps

After a big buyout announcement, employees start biting their fingernails, worried about their jobs. And uncertainty breeds more anxiety. At Onyx Pharmaceuticals, staffers don't yet know their individual fates, but they have some clarity about when they'll find out--and what will happen next.

Onyx ($ONXX) agreed earlier this week to a buyout by crosstown biotech giant, Amgen ($AMGN). Already, the company has sent a missive to employees, promising answers within 30 days of the deal's closing. As the San Francisco Business Times reports, all 800 of them will be told whether they'll be laid off, moved to different jobs, or allowed to stay put.

According to the Q&A document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Onyx's existing severance policies will remain in force after the deal. That means laid-off employees still get at least two months' worth of pay, plus immediate vesting of their stock awards and options. If they're eligible for a bonus and are laid off before year's end, their bonus pay will be prorated.

"Amgen's objective is to maintain the momentum of the business," the Q&A document stated, so Amgen will "take the appropriate time needed" to assess operations. After Amgen decides what to do with Onyx staffers--and notifies everyone--the layoffs and other changes "will take place gradually over the next few months." Laid-off workers will get at least two weeks' notice.

Amgen intends to let Onyx be Onyx, at least at first, the document says. It also plans to keep Onyx's South San Francisco offices. "Amgen ... initially plans to operate Onyx as a stand-alone entity in order to minimize disruption to ongoing operations," the company said in the filing. And in addition to maintaining Onyx HQ, Amgen plans to "retain ... select Onyx capabilities."

It sounds to us as if Onyx won't remain an independent, stand-alone operation, and that plenty of changes are coming. Long-term, the deal could resemble Sanofi's ($SNY) buyout of Genzyme--which lost some jobs and execs, but gained some Sanofi transfers and retained plenty of prestige internally. It's unlikely that Amgen would take its cue from Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX), which rolls into newly acquired companies and immediately slashes hundreds of jobs. 

- check out the SEC filing
- see the Business Times story

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