BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - The takeover bid for Genset SA, which the Swiss biotechnology company Serono SA initiated in June, officially opened in both France and the U.S. on July 16 and will close Sept. 12.

The cash tender offer for Genset's ordinary shares, convertible bonds, warrants and American depositary shares values the company at €107 million (US$107 million) and has been unanimously recommended by the Paris-based company's board of directors. It is conditioned on Serono, of Geneva, obtaining at least two-thirds of the voting rights of Genset. The bid was officially filed by Serono France Holding SA, a wholly owned subsidiary of Serono SA.

Genset announced on July 16 that - following its November 2001 offer to employees who received stock options under its 1997, 1999 and 2000 plans to exchange them for new stock options - it granted 314,204 new options to staff on July 11. The company's external communications manager, Karen Pagès, told BioWorld International that the employees involved were offered 88 new stock options for every 100 they held at a price just below what Serono is offering, making it a neutral operation.

Furthermore, pre-empting one of the first steps Serono said it would take in a successful bid, Genset decided to close its metabolism research center in San Diego, which employs about 40 people. According to Pagès, the closure will take effect on Sept. 30, at which point the company's U.S. subsidiary, Genset Corp., will cease to exist. The center's activities, including the development of Genset's anti-obesity drug candidate, Famoxin, will be repatriated to its main research and development center in Evry, south of Paris. Pagès added that some staff might transfer to France, while the rest would be helped to find employment elsewhere.

Genset said its management would have considered the closure of the San Diego facility even if Serono had not launched the takeover bid. If Serono takes control of the company, Genset's head office in Paris also will be closed and its administrative departments moved to Evry.

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