Novartis Closer to Completing Purchase of Alcon

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Swiss drug company Novartis has purchased Nestle’s 52% stake in Alcon for $28.1 billion, bringing it one step closer to buying the entire company with a 77% share. The New York Times has more:

Together with the $10.4 billion Novartis paid for an initial stake last year, and as much as $11.3 billion of its own shares that it is offering minority shareholders for the remaining 23 percent of Alcon, the $49.8 billion deal looks to be the most expensive merger in Swiss history.

The drugmaker is pushing further into the eye-care industry, where it hopes to capitalize on Alcon’s surgical, pharmaceutical and consumer eye-care business lines, which together reported $6.3 billion in sales in 2008. Novartis already sells contact lenses and eye disease treatments and says that with the merger, the combined company would have a product line covering 70 percent of the eye-care sector.

By acquiring Alcon, the company is seeking to offset expected losses in other areas by expanding in a growth market. Some of the drugmaker’s most lucrative patents will expire in the United States in the coming years: Diovan, a hypertension medication, in 2012, and Gleevec, a cancer treatment, in 2015.