Friday, January 12, 2007

Bayer, Novartis near deal over Betaseron-paper

Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:02am ET

FRANKFURT, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Drugs and chemicals group Bayer (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) and Swiss rival Novartis (NOVN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) are closer to settling a legal wrangle in the United States over the production and marketing of Bayer's key Betaseron drug, a paper reported.

The companies have made a joint request to a California court to postpone a deadline set for next Tuesday so that they can continue with settlement talks, the Financial Times Deutschland said on Friday. Bayer stock rose almost 4 percent.

The firms' lawyers wrote in December that the trial should be postponed until Feb. 20 "to make it possible to conclude the settlement negotiations currently being carried out between the parties", the paper said.

The dispute is over rights relating to multiple sclerosis medication Betaseron, which is one of Bayer unit Schering's star performers. Schering said in November it was suing Novartis in connection with the drug.

Bayer was not immediately available to comment. Novartis declined to comment

Shares in Bayer were up 3.2 percent at 43.27 euros by 0954 GMT, making it the top gainer on the German DAX <.GDAXI> index.