Wires

UPDATE 1-Novartis to buy U.S. biotech The Medicines Co. for $9.7 bln

Silke Koltrowitz and John Miller

(Adds detail, background.)

ZURICH, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Novartis AG is buying U.S. biotechnology company The Medicines Co for about $9.7 billion, the Swiss drugmaker said on Sunday, as it seeks to expand its portfolio of medicines against cardiovascular disease.

The deal is expected to help to shore up the company's growth threatened by patent expirations.

Novartis is paying $85 per share in cash, an approximately 24% premium over The Medicines Co.'s closing share price of $68.55 on Nov. 22.

The company said the deal had been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and would be financed through available cash and short- and long-term borrowings.

New Jersey-based The Medicines Cos top drug candidate is cholesterol-lowering drug inclisiran for heart patients, which could complement Novartiss growing business with its heart-failure medicine Entresto, a slow-seller to start that has now crossed the $1 billion annual revenue threshold.

Assuming completion in the first quarter of 2020, Novartis said it expected inclisiran to start to contribute to sales from 2021 and said it had the potential to become one of the largest products by sales in its portfolio.

The deal shows that Novartis is willing to spend billions on not only rare disease treatments, as it did in 2018 when it paid out $8.7 billion to buy gene therapy specialist AveXis, but also for cardiovascular treatments aimed at helping potentially millions of patients.

Novartis has historically had a strong cardiovascular drug franchise, but lost ground when Diovan, once a $6 billion-per-year seller, lost patent protection in 2012 and left the company without an immediate, innovative follow-up product.

The deal fits Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhans aim of adding bolt-on acquisitions of up to $10 billion to bolster the group's portfolio of medicines with new products or technologies.

Novartis also said it expected to continue to expand core margins in the Innovative Medicines division to "mid-thirties" in the near term, and to "mid-to high-thirties" in the medium term. (Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz and John Miller. Editing by Jane Merriman)