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Published on 9 April 2008

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Drugmaker in eye care firm deal

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A Swiss drugmaker is to buy more than three quarters of an eye care company in a two-part deal worth $39bn (£19.8bn).

Basel-based Novartis AG will acquire an initial 25% stake of Alcon Inc for $11bn (£5.6bn) from Nestle SA.

The food company, also based in Switzerland, also has the opportunity to sell a further 52% of Alcon to the drug company for $28bn (£14.2bn), giving Novartis 77% of the eye-care firm.

Novartis, who has offered $143.18 (£72.8) for each share of Alcon, would become the world’s largest maker of eye-care products if it acquired all of Nestle’s shares in the company.

It would also lessen the firm’s reliance on pharmaceuticals as new drugs are delayed and sales of others are affected by sales of generic versions.

karl Heinz Koch, analyst at Bank Vontobel AG in Zurich said it was “an attractive deal at attractive conditions”.

But another, Christian Gattiker, head of equity markets at Bank Julius Baer & Co said: “Novartis always told us they would focus on the pharma business and generics, so it’s a bit surprising.”

But Novartis Chief Executive Danial Vasella said the acquisition would “further the firm’s strategy to  strengthen in areas of the market which grow dynamically and which allow us to diversify risk.”

Copyright © PA Business 2008

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