Novartis completes Alcon merger with cash sweetener

SWISS pharma company Novartis AG has closed its long-awaited merger with eyecare specialist Alcon Inc for $12.9bn (£8.14bn), after adding cash to its original offer.

Novartis is hoping the Alcon deal, worth about $52bn in total, will help it diversify and protect it against patent loss on big selling medicines such as blood pressure drug Diovan.

Novartis has been trying to clinch 100 per cent ownership in Alcon since the start of the year, but its original all-paper offer of 2.8 Novartis shares for each Alcon share met stiff resistance.

Alcon’s independent director committee had repeatedly dismissed the offer as “grossly inadequate”.

The deal will see Novartis will pay $168 per share for the Alcon shares it does not currently own, meaning that if 2.8 Novartis shares do not reach a value of $168, it will top up the sum with cash until it reaches that threshold.

“The announcement ... removes uncertainty around this transaction which has weighed heavily on the Novartis share price in recent months. This together with the re-activation of the share buyback programme should support the Novartis share price,” Helvea analyst Karl-Heinz Koch said.

Novartis's move completes the final stage of a lengthy process to get full control of the eyecare group, known for its contact lens solutions, and the dominant player in the multibillion-dollar market of intraocular lenses.

Alcon is also No. 1 in cataracts – an area that is set to benefit from ageing populations.

Novartis also said it was restarting a 10 billion Swiss franc share buyback programme, suspended in April 2008, to minimise dilution to Novartis shareholders.