BERLIN (Reuters) -Morphosys said its takeover by Novartis is still expected to close in the first half of this year, after a news report on a possible drug safety risk knocked the German biotechnology company's stock price on Monday.

Morphosys' statement came after a report by specialist website STAT News, citing two people familiar with the matter, of a safety issue with its experimental drug pelabresib, which is being developed to treat myelofibrosis, a rare type of blood cancer affecting the bone marrow.

"We generally do not discuss our interactions with regulatory authorities publicly. We remain confident in the benefit-risk profile of the combination of pelabresib and ruxolitinib," a Morphosys spokesperson said in an emailed response to Reuters, referring to Novartis' treatment for the same condition.

"The planned acquisition by Novartis is progressing steadily," they added.

Novartis declined to comment on the STAT News report.

Pelabresib is seen as one of Morphosys's most promising drugs and a driver of Novartis's interest in the company.

The Swiss drug manufacturer struck a deal in February to take over Morphosys for 2.7 billion euros ($2.89 billion).

Shares in Morphosys were down 1.5% at 1026 GMT. Novartis shares were down 0.3%.

($1 = 0.9338 euros)

(Reporting by Patricia Weiss and Paul Arnold, Writing by Rachel More, Editing by Andrey Sychev, Kirsten Donovan)