Roche eyes acquisition of Pacific Biosciences: sources

Roche tablets are seen positioned in front of a displayed Roche logo in this photo illustration shot in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

(Reuters) - Roche Holding AG ROG.VX has in recent weeks approached Pacific Biosciences of California Inc PACB.O to discuss acquiring the U.S. company, spurred by interest in its advanced gene-sequencing technology, people familiar with the matter said.

Talks between the two companies have not yet advanced because of disagreements over the price of a potential deal, the people said this week. There is no certainty that Roche will continue to pursue Pacific Biosciences, the people added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the discussions have not been public. Roche declined to comment, while Pacific Biosciences did not respond to requests for comment.

Pacific Biosciences shares were trading up 25 percent at $12.70 in afternoon trading in New York on the news, giving the company a market value of close to $1 billion.

Based in Menlo Park, California, Pacific Biosciences focuses primarily on developing and manufacturing systems for gene sequencing. It had revenue in the first nine months of 2015 of almost $57 million.

In 2013, Roche, which is based in Basel, Switzerland, penned a partnership agreement with Pacific Biosciences for the development and distribution of diagnostic products that use the biotechnology company’s advanced gene technology.

Roche’s overture follows a string a small deals last year designed to build out scale in select therapeutic areas, including innovative life sciences. In August, Roche agreed to acquire privately held biotech Kapa Biosystems and diagnostics company GeneWEAVE.

A deal would come as further evidence of the continued strength of life sciences M&A, which has faced headwinds due to volatility in the equity and debt markets.

Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia in London and Carl O’Donnell in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker