BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Oxford GlycoSciences plc is pushing Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc to improve its bid after Celltech Group plc said Friday it had acquired a 10.5 percent stake in OGS, further undermining CAT's all-share offer.

"There is still all to play for," said David Ebsworth, CEO of OGS. "The proposed scheme of arrangement with CAT would not be prevented by a possible 10 percent holding by any party provided 75 percent of votes cast are in favor of the scheme."

CAT's all-share offer for Abingdon-based OGS was worth £110 million (US$173 million) when it was made in January, but its value has since fallen to £83 million because of the drop in share price. That led OGS to withdraw its approval and left Celltech's hostile bid of £101.4 million in cash as the only offer on the table.

Ebsworth said in a statement that he is in discussions with CAT, "with a view to obtaining a material improvement in the value of their offer." He continued to advise shareholders to take no action over Slough-based Celltech's offer.

CAT, based in Cambridge, needs to make a move this week, before the first closing date of Celltech's offer on March 31. On Monday, CAT signaled it is still interested in merging with OGS, putting out a statement saying, "The proposed merger with OGS can still be achieved notwithstanding Celltech's recent acquisition of OGS shares."

Celltech bought the OGS stake at £1.82 per share, the same price per share it is offering to take over the whole company.

Last week, Celltech's finance director, Peter Allen, commented that the board of OGS may have rejected Celltech's bid, but the bid is addressed to the shareholders. Speaking in a teleconference called to discuss Celltech's 2002 financial results, Allen said, "We didn't seek the approval of the company. It is normal for shareholders to want to see what is coming through before deciding."

Celltech has said it would not accept a deal that dilutes earnings or impacts on the cash balance.

Allen added that Celltech has not decided on a final closing date for its offer, but noted, "We are mindful that every month another £2.5 [million] to £3 million is being spent on supporting [OGS] and its activities."