* Companies say talks at early stage
* Warner Chilcott shares up 23 percent; Actavis up 11.7 pct (Adds Warner Chilcott, analyst comment; updates shares)
By Bill Berkrot
May 10 (Reuters) - Generic drugmaker Actavis Inc, formerly Watson Pharmaceuticals, said on Friday that it was in early stage discussions to buy specialty pharmaceutical company Warner Chilcott Plc.
Actavis said no agreement had been reached and that it would have no further comment on the talks.
The discussions, which had been reported by Bloomberg News, follow unsuccessful merger talks between Actavis and Canada’s specialty pharmaceutical company Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc, which were put on hold as the companies failed to agree to terms of a deal.
“These discussions are at a preliminary stage and may or may not lead to an offer for the company,” Warner Chilcott said in a statement confirming the negotiations. It too said there would be no further comment unless there is a development for which it feels additional disclosures are “appropriate or required.”
Dublin, Ireland-based Warner Chilcott, which more than a year ago said it was seeking a buyer, has a market value of about $3.8 billion.
Shares of both companies jumped after the talks were confirmed. Warner Chilcott shares climbed nearly 23 percent to $18.46 in afternoon trading on Nasdaq. Actavis shares rose 11.7 percent to $119.37 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Leerink Swann analyst Jason Gerberry said in a research note that the deal would make sense for both companies.
“Actavis has been vocal about wanting to improve its tax structure and increase its presence in brands (non generic medicines), particularly in women’s health,” Gerberry said in a research note.
The Irish company has a women’s health franchise and a lower tax rate.
“Warner Chilcott is clearly a willing seller, as evidenced by efforts to sell the company last year,” Gerberry added. (Reporting by Deena Beasley and Bill Berkrot; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Nick Zieminski and Kenneth Barry)