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Valeant mounts hostile bid for Ista Pharmaceuticals

Potential 12th acquisition for Canada-based pharma company in 2011

Canada's largest pharma company Valeant Pharmaceuticals has continued with its series of acquisition attempts with a hostile takeover bid for Ista Pharmaceuticals, having failed to agree a merger deal with the US-based eye care company in October.

The takeover bid follows Ista's official rejection of Valeant's $6.50 per share bid, which has been dismissed by the US firm's management as "grossly inadequate". 

The offer values Ista at around $314m, but in the wake of the announcement of Valeant's intentions Ista's share price increased more than 70 per cent to close Friday at $6.68, with investors clearly hoping for a bidding war from another suitor.

A letter from Ista chief executive Vicente Anido to his counterpart at Valeant - Mike Pearson - says that the offer "significantly undervalues" the company and implies it is an opportunistic move prompted by recent weakness in Ista's share price.

Valeant has made several purchases over 2011, acquiring 11 companies or divisions in as many months, mainly targeting assets in the speciality pharmaceutical sector.

These deals include the company's purchase of Ortho Dermatologics from Johnson & Johnson and Dermik Laboratories from Sanofi, enhancing its position in dermatology. Valeant is now looking to adopt a similar strategy in ophthalmology.

Other recent acquisitions include over-the-counter (OTC) drug specialist Afexa Life Sciences, Lithuanian generics company AB Sanitas and Switzerland-based PharmaSwiss, a manufacturer of OTC and speciality generic brands, while the company is in the process of buying Australia's iNova Pharma.

Not all Valeant's acquisition attempts have been successful, however. The Canadian firm tried and failed to win US company Cephalon, which was eventually sold to rival firm Teva.

Ista fits the profile for Valeant, with a growing portfolio of eye care products that brought in $115m in revenues during the first nine months of 2011, led by Bromday (bromfenac) for postoperative inflammation and reduction of ocular pain in patients undergoing cataract surgery.

Sales of Bromday are up 80 per cent year-on-year, helping Ista deal with the lost sales following its withdrawal from the market of an older bromfenac-based product - Xibrom - which lost patent protection earlier this year.

19th December 2011

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