Bayer wins Merck & Co's $14 billion consumer unit auction

Tue May 6, 2014 1:10pm EDT
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By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's Bayer AG has trumped rival bidders for Merck & Co Inc's consumer care business in a $14.2 billion deal, adding to a string of major cross-border deals in the healthcare industry.

"This acquisition marks a major milestone on our path towards global leadership in the attractive non-prescription medicines business," Bayer's chief executive, Marijn Dekkers, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Merck, which is selling non-prescription brands such as the MiraLAX laxative and Afrin cold remedy, said it expects after-tax proceeds of between $8 billion and $9 billion from the sale, which is expected to close in the second half of 2014.

The transaction, the largest in the German healthcare industry since Bayer bought rival Schering for 17 billion euros ($24 billion) in 2006, will make Bayer the world's second-biggest consumer healthcare company, as it seeks to make better use of its distribution network and sales force.

"We can take these products and market them more forcefully than Merck has been able to do so far," Dekkers said in a conference call with analysts.

Bayer, the inventor of aspirin and maker of Bepanthen skin care products and Canesten antifungal creams, has repeatedly said it wants to take the top spot in the rankings.

Drug makers have embarked on a major reshuffling of their business portfolios. Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) last month agreed to trade more than $20 billion worth of assets, while AstraZeneca is fighting off a $106 billion takeover approach from Pfizer.

Meanwhile companies including France's Sanofi, Merck & Co and Abbott are looking at selling off mature drugs that have lost patent protection.   Continued...

A view of the Merck & Co. campus in Linden, New Jersey March 9, 2009, after Merck & Co Inc said it would acquire Schering-Plough Corp in $41.1 billion deal, widening Merck's pipeline and diversifying its portfolio of medicines. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky