By Lisa Seachrist

Washington Editor

WASHINGTON — Amgen Inc.'s stock edged up $3.437 Friday on rumors that E.I. DuPont & Co. intends to purchase the Thousand Oaks, Calif., firm — biotechnology's largest, with more than $2 billion in annual revenues.

Amgen's stock (NASDAQ:AMGN) closed at $65.25 on the speculation Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont would purchase the company for $25 billion in cash. Neither company would comment on the rumors.

"As a matter of company policy we don't comment on such matters," said David Kaye, spokesman for Amgen.

Should the deal go through, it would further strengthen DuPont's growing pharmaceutical presence. Last week, DuPont bought out Merck & Co. Inc.'s interest in their joint venture, DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co., for $2.6 billion.

However, there are questions regarding the merit of the Amgen rumor, said Matt Geller, an analyst with CIBC Oppenheimer & Co. in New York.

"These kind of rumors have plagued Amgen for the past several years," Geller said. "This one is quite nonsensical because the CEO of DuPont has stated repeatedly that he is not interested in a large acquisition. This is just a foolish rumor."

In fact, earlier this week, an Internet chat line was ruminating on a similar rumor with Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., as Amgen's purchaser. Geller noted that a couple of years ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York, was rumored to be taking over Amgen.

Jay Silverman, an analyst with BancAmerica Robertson Stephens, in San Francisco, also noted Amgen has been on the receiving end of a large number of takeover rumors. Nevertheless, Silverman said there could be a basis for such speculation.

"I don't think anybody really knows whether this rumor is true," Silverman said. "However, management has been criticized for the last five years for not acquiring new technologies. A takeover would solve this problem, so on the surface there is some logic."

Silverman added Amgen could be a good match for DuPont because Amgen has expertise in biology and protein production but is weak in chemistry. DuPont is a chemical company that is interested in growing its pharmaceutical business.

But Amgen could just as easily fit with any number of large pharmaceutical companies, Silverman said.

"Maybe this is turning into a feeding frenzy," he said. "There is a lot of speculation."

Geller agreed and noted the timing of this rumor right before a holiday weekend made him suspect its validity.

"There may be many reasons to buy Amgen; this takeover rumor is not one of them," Geller said. *