Wires

UPDATE 2-Novartis to buy U.S. biotech The Medicines Co. for $9.7 bln

Silke Koltrowitz and John Miller

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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.

Novartis is paying $85 per share in cash, about a 24% premium over The Medicines Co's closing share price of $68.55 on Friday.

The deal is expected to help shore up Novartis' growth threatened by patent expirations and will help take on rival drugs, such as Amgen Inc's Repatha and Sanofi's and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc's Praluent, which have much more frequent dosing.

The company said the deal had been approved by the boards 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 Novartis 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 in 2021 and that it had the potential to become one of the largest products by sales in its portfolio.

The acquisition would modestly dilute core earnings per share versus a no-deal scenario during the next few years, but should then be significantly accretive to group core operating income and core EPS in the medium term, Novartis said.

The deal shows that Novartis is willing to spend billions on not only rare disease treatments, as it did in 2018 when it paid $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. A bolt-on acquisition involves the purchase of a smaller company in the same line of business.

Novartis also said it expected to continue to expand core margins in the Innovative Medicines division to the "mid-thirties" in the near term and to the "mid-to high-thirties" in the medium term.

Novartis hunt for deals comes as billions in revenue is under threat from upcoming patent expirations including on Lucentis, for macular degeneration, iron overload medicine Exjade and $3.3 billion-per-year MS drug Gilenya.

To remedy the potential hit, Narasimhan has been on a shopping spree. This year, the company paid up to $5.3 billion for Takedas dry eye drug Xiidra.

With the AveXis deal last year, he added the gene therapy Zolgensma, now the highest-priced one-time treatment at $2.1 million, for spinal muscular atrophy. He also bought U.S.-based Endocyte last year for $2.1 billion. (Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz and John Miller; Editing by Jane Merriman and Peter Cooney)