Novartis pays £8bn for rest of US’ Alcon

City A.M. Reporter
NOVARTIS has wrapped up its long-awaited buyout of the remainder of US-listed Alcon for $12.9bn (£8.25bn), after sweetening its original offer with cash.

The Swiss drugmaker is hoping the deal with its rival, worth some $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 from Alcon’s directors, who repeatedly dismissed it as “grossly inadequate”.

Novartis’ 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, small lenses implanted in the eye to correct problems focusing.

Alcon is also number one in cataracts – an area that is set to benefit from ageing populations.

Novartis also said it was restarting a SwFr10bn (£6.59bn) share buyback programme, suspended in April 2008, to minimise dilution to Novartis shareholders.

Novartis’ decision to restart its share buyback is part of a growing trend among European drug firms to return cash to investors.