The proxy fight surrounding Roche's (OTC: RHHBY) hostile bid for Illumina (Nasdaq: ILMN ) has reached the ruckus level of the 1988 vice presidential debates.
Like Dan Quayle, Illumina set itself up by citing Xconomy reporter Luke Timmerman's comment that "Illumina is like the Apple of the genomics business."
To which Roche responded, "There is one glaring difference between Illumina and Apple -- Illumina's MiSeq and HiSeq ARE NOT the iPhone and the iPad," before adding, "unlike at Apple stores, crowd control of eager buyers has not been a problem for Illumina."
A retort in its best Lloyd Bentsen voice, "I've used Apple products, I've been to the Genius Bar, I've spent money on overpriced Apple products. Illumina, you're no Apple," would have been funnier and probably more effective.
Either way, I think it's safe to assume Roche won't propose to change the name of the company to iLlumina at the shareholder meeting next week.
What Roche does want is for shareholders to support its slate of nominees so it can facilitate the hostile takeover internally. Big hint, Roche: Insulting the company the shareholders own probably isn't the best way to get shareholders on your side.
Roche is in a desperate situation. Those inclined to think the $51 per share offer is reasonable might as well just sell their share on the open market where they can currently get a higher offer. Assuming it stays that way going into next week's shareholder meeting, I see very few shareholders voting for Roche's nominees.
Roche tries to skirt the point by characterizing its offer as a "more than reasonable starting point for negotiations." But investors should see through the contention. Unless Roche's nominees go rogue, Illumina will get sold for pretty close to the current offer.
At this point, it looks like Illumina is content to just sit back and wait for Roche to continue to bid against itself. Of course the worry for shareholders is that Roche gets fed up and walks away. Illumina is clearly the best fit, but there are other fish in the genetic-analysis sea. Life Technologies (Nasdaq: LIFE ) , Pacific Biosciences of California (Nasdaq: PACB ) , Complete Genomics (Nasdaq: GNOM ) , and a few smaller private companies are all potential options.
Like debates where candidates insult each other, proxy fights are fun to watch. Unfortunately there are no exit polls -- or iPhone apps -- to get a read on which way this one will go. Investors would be better off with other high-tech stocks.