A rumor Friday that Switzerland-based Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc. has offered to outbid Amgen Inc. for theacquisition of Synergen Inc. was described as eitherbogus or not-too farfetched speculation.

BioWorld Today learned of the rumor through a pressrelease, dated Dec. 3 and written on Synergen letterhead.The release was received via fax late Thursday.

"That's not our release," said Synergen spokeswomanSusan Eustes. "We have received no offer fromHoffmann-La Roche. We are not in any currentdiscussions with a company other than Amgen . . . andwe would not pursue any other offers." (For details of theoriginal deal, see BioWorld Today, Nov. 18 and 21,1994, p. 1.)

Darien Wilson, spokeswoman at Hoffmann-La Roche'sAmerican subsidiary in Nutley, N.J., said she was notaware of any offer and would not comment on rumors.

"This news release is in fact a hoax," said David Kaye,spokesman for Amgen, of Thousand Oaks, Calif."Amgen's senior management has spoken to Synergen'ssenior management and no offer has been received fromHoffmann-La Roche or anybody else. No alternate offerhas been received or spoken about. This whole thing is ahoax."

The company spokespersons declined to speculate onwhy someone would circulate the misinformation.

Analysts contacted Friday were unaware of the rumor,but said the possibility of a hostile offer for Synergenfrom Hoffmann-La Roche was not too farfetched.

"While plausible, it doesn't appear to be factual," saidDavid Stone, of Cowen & Co. in Boston.

Following the Nov. 18 announcement that Amgen wasacquiring Synergen, of Boulder, Colo., for $258 million,or $9.25 per share, Barbara Hoffman, of Piper Jaffray Inc.in Denver, said a higher offer was "not out of thequestion."

"I thought there could be another offer because there wasa lot of value in Synergen," Hoffman said Friday, addingthat she did not hear the rumor about Roche.

However, she said, "Roche is a likely candidate. In someways it makes business sense and in other ways itdoesn't."

Another analyst, who asked not to be named, said RocheHolding Ltd., parent company of Hoffmann-La Roche,apparently is expected to make another acquisition by theend of the year, in addition to its purchase of SyntexCorp., of Palo Alto, Calif., and possible buyout ofGenentech Inc.

Roche owns 65 percent of Genentech with an option tobuy the remainder of the South San Francisco-basedcompany's outstanding shares. The Genentech optionexpires in June 1995 and there has been speculationRoche would exercise it before the end of 1994.

Hoffman said Roche has plenty of cash and purchasingSynergen for $400 million or $500 million would not puta strain on Roche's resources.

The press release received by BioWorld statedHoffmann-La Roche was offering $14.75 per share _ or$5.50 per share higher than Amgen's bid _ forSynergen's 27.9 million shares, bringing the total buyoutto about $411 million.

Eustes said she does not know who sent the bogusrelease, nor does she know why. "I don't know whatwe'll do," she added, when asked if the company wouldtry to determine the origin. She said the letterhead andinformation used as a general profile of Synergen in therelease are outdated.

In an apparently unrelated development, Amgen saidFriday it extended the 15-day waiting period beforepurchasing Synergen's stock. The U.S. JusticeDepartment's antitrust division and the Federal TradeCommission require the waiting period to review theacquisition for potential regulatory violations.

Amgen's tender offer for Synergen was initiated Nov. 23and is set to expire Dec. 21. The waiting period,originally due to end Saturday (Dec. 3), was extendeduntil Dec. 15.

Kaye said Amgen voluntarily extended the waiting periodafter getting questions from the government regulatorsthat indicated they needed additional time to review themerger. He said Amgen has not received any informationof a potential problem or antitrust violation, and he saidthe extended waiting period should not affect Amgen'spurchase of Synergen's shares.

Synergen's stock (NASDAQ:SYGN) closed Friday at$9.05, up 1 cent, and Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) endedtrading at $56.75, down $1.25. n

-- Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.