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Caremark-CVS Deal Clears Regulatory Hurdle

The proposed takeover of pharmacy benefit manager Caremark by drugstore chain CVS has cleared a regulatory hurdle, and the deal could close early next year, the companies said Wednesday. But a rival suitor said the deal is far from done.

The initial waiting period required by the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 expired without a request for additional information from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the companies said in separate statements.

"With this step, we are much closer to creating the largest and best positioned integrated pharmacy services provider," Tom Ryan, CVS chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

The deal remains subject to approval by shareholders of both companies. CVS said it now anticipates that a deal could close as early as the first quarter of 2007.

A rival pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts , offered on Monday to buy Caremark for about $26 billion, threatening to derail Caremark's planned sale to CVS.

Late Wednesday, Express Scripts said it remained confident in its bid for Caremark. "We said on December 18th that we anticipate the Express Scripts transaction with Caremark would be completed in the third quarter of 2007," Express Scripts said in a statement. "The superior value of the Express Scripts offer for Caremark is clear as evidenced by the strong support of both Express Scripts and Caremark stockholders."

Express Scripts said Wednesday closing price values its offer at $60.68 per share or $26.6 billion, a 21.5 premium to the current value of the CVS offer.

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