CVS sweetened its $23.9 billion takeover bid for Caremark on Thursday with an increased
dividend, calling its newest proposal its "best and final" offer for the pharmacy-benefits manager.
CVS , seeking to thwart rival suitor Express Scripts , offered to pay $54.12 a share, plus a higher, one-time dividend of $7.50 per share after closing of the deal. The dividend previously was $6 per share.
The increased dividend marked the third time CVS has improved its bid since November, when it agreed to buy Caremark in an effort to expand its prescription benefits and mail-order business.
The higher offer still was below Caremark's closing stock price of $62.16, up 86 cents, or 1.4%, on the New York Stock Exchange.
Express Scripts has bid $61.63 a share, or $26.9 billion, for Caremark. It also has offered to pay interest on the cash portion of its offer to compensate Caremark shareholders for a lengthier antitrust review. "CVS has gotten the offer close enough to Express Scripts' bid to sway shareholders," said Mitchell Corwin, an equity analyst with Morningstar.
CVS, the No. 2 U.S. drugstore chain, said its shareholders would vote on the deal on March 15. Caremark's shareholders are scheduled to vote on March 16.