Shire has retained investment bank Lazard to help it prepare for a possible takeover attempt, says a Sunday Times report.

The newspaper suggests that the Dublin-based company has already been approached by Bristol-Myers Squibb earlier this year but rebuffed the advance, and hired Lazard to help it formulate a range of responses if a public offer is made.

In the past, Shire has been linked to possible takeover by AstraZeneca, which suspended a share repurchase programme earlier this year leading to speculation that it is gearing up for a major acquisition.

Reports of the pending takeover attempt come shortly after Shire reversed disappointing first-quarter results with a robust second-quarter headlined by a 7% increase in revenue to $1.23 billion and net income up 8.5% to $258 million, ahead of analyst expectations.

Rumours have been circulating about Shire for some time and gained traction after Perrigo bought Irish drugmaker Elan in an $8.6 billion deal, despite the best efforts by recently appointed chief executive Flemming Ornskov to cool the speculation.

Irish drugmakers are attractive propositions for takeover because of the favourable tax regime in Ireland. Perrigo said this was a key factor in the Elan transaction, and it was also cited as a positive by Actavis in its $8.5 billion deal to acquire Warner Chilcott in May.

Ornskov said earlier this year he is interested in acquisitions to boost the company's rare diseases business but stressed the company was not seeking a takeover, although he declined to comment on whether offers had been received.

The CEO has been re-hiring sales reps that were shed last year in anticipation of expanded sales of its attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine), acquired in 2007 via its $2.6 billion purchase of New River Pharmaceuticals, in new indications such as binge-eating disorder and depression.

He has also decided not to extend an ongoing share-buyback programme, suggesting the company wants cash on hand to make its own acquisitions.