Roche jeers at Illumina's boasts as proxy fight escalates

Anthropologists could gather plenty of material during a hostile bid. The competing press releases, the public correspondence, the CEO statements--a PhD candidate could spin all that into a respectable dissertation on human nature in corporate dealmaking (or proxy fights as tribal warfare).

Just look at Roche's ($RHHBY) pursuit of Illumina ($ILMN). In the early days, their letters were quite civil, even boring. Even the most inflammatory language wasn't all that inflammatory. "Grossly inadequate" is, after all, a stock phrase that simply means, "not as high as we want." Roche quoted lots of numbers, and Illumina did a fair bit of bragging, and the capitalized sentences merely directed shareholders to read the entire document, please.

But Roche has extended its offer twice, and now it's on its fourth letter. Yet Illumina doesn't appear to be listening to repeated assurances that its wooer might hike its price--provided it can get a look at the numbers, and those numbers support such a move.

And Illumina made the mistake of comparing itself to that almost-trillion-dollar company, Apple. Overreaching? We'll let you be the judge. Incendiary? Just take a look at Roche's response:

"Illumina's MiSeq and HiSeq ARE NOT the iPhone and the iPad," Roche says in its latest missive, while pointing out that Apple's devices are consumer products with a worldwide market. Meanwhile, the universe of customers for Illumina's machines is quite a bit smaller. "[U]nlike at Apple stores, crowd control of eager buyers has not been a problem."

However, in a subsequent statement, Roche CEO Severin Schwan (photo) takes a cooler approach. "Our goal has always been to enter into a negotiated transaction with Illumina," he says, promising to consider any information demonstrating his $51-per-share offer undervalues Illumina. No response yet from Schwan's target. But you can be sure one will be forthcoming.

- read the Roche letter
- see Schwan's statement
- get the Financial Times story (reg. req.)

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