Abbott’s Solvay Purchase Reduces Dependence on Humira (Update3)
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By Meg Tirrell, Albertina Torsoli and Jacqueline Simmons
Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Abbott Laboratories’ purchase of Solvay SA’s pharmaceutical unit, for about 4.8 billion euros ($7.1 billion), will give it full control of the TriCor cholesterol drug and a bigger presence in emerging markets.
Abbott will pay 4.5 billion euros in cash, with as much as 300 million euros in contingent payments between 2011 and 2013. The milestone payments relate to whether products perform well. The agreement also includes the assumption of about 400 million euros of pension liabilities, Solvay said in a statement today.
The purchase will lower Abbott’s dependence on the arthritis drug Humira, said Larry Biegelsen, a Wells Fargo Securities LLC analyst, in a Sept. 25 report. The company’s biggest product with $4.5 billion in 2008 revenue, Humira risks losing sales as consumers cut spending. Solvay, which also makes chemicals and plastics, wasn’t big enough to compete in pharmaceuticals, Chief Executive Officer Christian Jourquin said.
“If the deal is completed, it would reduce Humira’s share of Abbott’s total sales to 15 percent from the current level of 18 percent,” Biegelsen wrote. Based in New York, he recommends holding Abbott shares.
The deal also suggests Abbott is comfortable with the landscape for TriCor and TriLipix, cholesterol drugs it co- promotes with Solvay. Both use the active ingredient fenofibrate, and account for about 20 percent of Brussels-based Solvay’s pharmaceutical sales, Biegelsen wrote.
TriCor faces generic competition by 2011, and Abbott is seeking regulatory approval to market TriLipix in combination with AstraZeneca Plc’s Crestor. TriCor generated $1.34 billion in revenue last year for Abbott, of Abbott Park, Illinois, and 511 million euros for Brussels-based Solvay.
Solvay fell 2.23 euros, or 3 percent, to 72.50 euros at 10:35 a.m. in Brussels, giving the company a market value of 6.1 billion euros. Before today, the stock had risen 42 percent since the company said April 1 that it was weighing options for the drug business. Abbott rose 39 cents to $47.33 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading on Sept. 25.
Buying Solvay’s drug business represents a change of course for Chief Executive Officer Miles White, who has been acquiring medical devices and eye products to reduce Abbott’s reliance on medicines as the company battles generic competition to its anti-seizure treatment Depakote.
Solvay’s pharmaceutical unit brought in 2.7 billion euros in revenue last year, 24 percent of the company’s total sales. It focuses on therapeutic areas such as cardiometabolics, which includes its best-seller, TriCor, and neuroscience, including the Duodopa treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
TriCor is used to reduce triglycerides and adjust cholesterol levels. Solvay’s other top-selling products are Androgel, a testosterone gel, and Creon, a pancreatic enzyme to treat cystic fibrosis.
Barclays Capital advised Abbott while Solvay’s advisers included Rothschild & Cie., Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc.
The purchase may add to Abbott’s earnings immediately, UBS analyst Bruce Nudell wrote in a Sept. 25 research note. He cited a 5 percent to 7 percent increase to cash earnings-per-share in the first three years.
Solvay’s sales come primarily from outside the U.S., which will help expand Abbott’s international presence in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe and Asia. Forty-nine percent of Abbott’s $29.5 billion in 2008 sales came from the U.S.
Solvay will look to use the proceeds to invest in a growing business that helps it diversify away from chemicals and plastics, Jourquin, the CEO, said on a conference call today. He declined to elaborate.
“What is important is that we have the cash in house,” Jourquin said. “I wouldn’t make any speculation before closing of the deal.”
Nycomed A/S of Switzerland and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. of Japan also contended to buy Solvay’s drug unit, people with knowledge of the situation said. They declined to comment publicly because the talks were private.
Solvay, which introduced one of the first modern antidepressants in 1983, ranks as the world’s biggest producer of soda ash, used to make glass and modify the acidity of shampoos. Solvay gets much of its annual revenue from the automotive and construction industries, among the hardest hit by the recession.
Nycomed, whose owners include Nordic Capital and a buyout unit of Credit Suisse Group AG, offered 4 billion euros to 4.5 billion euros for the Solvay unit, people familiar with the situation said on Sept. 25. Nycomed wanted to buy the business in preparation for an initial public offering in 2011, a person with knowledge of the matter said on Sept. 11.
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Entocort 9 mg, Zosyn IV 4.5g x 3, Flucanozole 200mg, Asacol 4 x 3