Novartis Bids For Slovenian Maker Of Generic Drugs

By Agence France-Presse Novartis AG says it will make a cash bid for Slovenian company Lek, which the Basel, Switzerland-based drug group values at 1.186 billion Swiss francs (US$795 million). The offer price represents a premium of more than 73% above Lek's average closing price on the Ljubljana stock exchange since the start of 2002, Novartis says. The company says its offer is conditional on receiving at least 51% acceptance, adding that Lek's board had approved an acquisition by Novartis of more than 15% of the Slovenian drug maker's shares Aug. 29. Under the terms of the deal, Lek would continue to operate as a standalone company, while playing a "key role" in the development of the Swiss company's business in eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. Novartis says it has no plans to downsize either Lek's workforce or its operations. The Swiss group stressed the importance of Lek's strong product pipeline, especially in generic drugs. "Together, Novartis and Lek would be positioned as a global leader with a strong presence in the key generics markets of the United States, Western Europe, central eastern Europe, south eastern Europe and the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] region," Novartis said. Among other products, Lek makes a generic version of GlaxoSmithKline's Augmentin antibiotic. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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