Roche, which has posted a healthy set of financials for the first half of 2014, is not averse to jumping on the mergers merry-go-round but bolt-on deals are more likely.

That is the view of chief executive Severin Schwan who said in an interview with CNBC that the Swiss major is “very open to external innovation”. He added that “if the price is right, we will seize the opportunity”, but “targeted investments” that complement Roche’s portfolio, such as its recent $1.7 billion acquisition of US cancer specialist Seragon Pharmaceuticals are the most likely route.

Dr Schwan (pictured) was speaking after Roche posted six-month sales of 22.97 billion francs, down 1% (but up 5% at constant exchange rates), while net income was down 7%, again hit by the currency effect, to 5.64 billion francs. Pharmaceutical revenues were down 2% to 17.83 billion francs, and the top-selling drug was MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab), approved for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia as well as rheumatoid arthritis. It contributed 3.36 billion francs, an increase of 4% at constant exchange rates.

Sales of Herceptin (trastuzumab) for HER2-positive breast cancer rose 6% to 3.08 billion francs, while Avastin (bevacizumab) had sales of 3.10 billion francs (+6%). The chemotherapy Xeloda (capecitabine) sank 34% to 474 million francs, hit by generic competition in the USA, while sales of Tarceva (erlotinib), for advanced lung and pancreatic cancer, slipped 1% to 651 million francs.

As for Roche’s other products, Lucentis (ranibizumab) for wet age-related macular degeneration rose 6% to 828 million francs, while RoActemra/Actemra (tocilizumab) for rheumatoid arthritis, rocketed 22% to 1568 million francs. The company noted that the melanoma drug Zelboraf (vemurafenib) brought in 155 million francs, down 5%. The two breast cancer treatments - Kadcyla (trastuzumab/emtansine) and Perjeta (pertuzumab) had sales of 227 million francs (+188%) and 388 million francs (+276%) respectively.

Dr Schwan said he is confident Roche would hit its full-year targets - a low-to-mid single-digit increase in sales at constant exchange rates is expected.