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Roche Criticizes Illumina's Apple Comparison

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Swiss drug maker Roche Holding AG (ROG.VX, RHHBY) again urged Illumina Inc. (ILMN) shareholders to vote for its slate of board candidates and criticized the U.S. gene-sequencing company for comparing itself to Apple Inc. (AAPL), in Roche's latest move to stage a takeover. In a letter to Illumina shareholders Wednesday, Roche mocked Illumina for recently telling shareholders that the company has been called "the Apple of the genomics business." "There is one glaring difference between Illumina and Apple--Illumina's MiSeq and HiSeq are not the iPhone and the iPad," Roche wrote, saying Illumina's products serve a much smaller and highly regulated market compared with Apple's products. Roche noted "crowd control of eager buyers" has not been a problem for the company and "not even Illumina has projected any surge in revenues from its products in any specific foreseeable time period." Roche said Illumina has an uncertain future as a standalone company, but it is "willing to assume this risk." Last week Illumina rejected Roche's sweetened offer of $51 a share, saying the revised bid--which values the company at about $6.5 billion--was still inadequate and opportunistic. However, Roche Wednesday said its offer is "very attractive" and "a more than reasonable starting point for negotiations." Over the last week, three proxy-advisory firms have recommended that Illumina shareholders vote against Roche's board nominees. Ilumina shares slid by 13 cents to $52.44 after hours. The stock has gained 72% since the start of the year. -By Nathalie Tadena, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3287; nathalie.tadena@dowjones.com

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