• Telegraph
  • Business

Drugmaker Shire has agreed to sell its oncology business to a French rival, putting into question whether a bid for the FTSE 100 firm from Japanese suitor Takeda will emerge.

Shire is selling the oncology business to Servier, a pharmaceutical company governed by a non-profit foundation, for $2.4bn (£1.7bn).

The deal comes as Takeda boss Christophe Weber is understood to be lining up meetings with its major holders ahead of making a potential £35bn offer for Shire. Its biggest investors include US-based Blackrock, Capital Group and JP Morgan.

The oncology unit sale is expected to close in the second or third quarter of the year and Shire boss Flemming Ornskov said the firm would “consider returning the proceeds of the sale to shareholders through a shareholder-approved share buyback after the current offer period regarding Takeda’s possible offer for Shire concludes”.

The oncology unit was an area that Takeda had identified as a driver for its potential takeover approach. It said last month that any deal would strengthen its core therapeutic areas of developing medicines for cancer, gastroenterology and neuroscience. One analyst said that the unit was considered to be non-core for Shire.

The UK Takeover Panel gave the Japanese firm a deadline of April 25 to announce a firm intention to bid or walk away.

Concerns have been raised by analysts that Takeda will struggle to fund the takeover, as Shire is worth £7bn more than the Japanese group. The Japanese firm is thought to be considering splitting Shire and selling its neuroscience division in