January 8, 2012 / 4:15 AM / 8 years ago

Bristol to buy Inhibitex for hepatitis C treatment

(Reuters) - Bristol-Myers Squibb Co has agreed to acquire Inhibitex Inc for about $2.5 billion to gain access to its promising hepatitis C treatment, the companies said on Saturday.

At $26 per share, the deal is a huge 163 percent premium to Inhibitex’s closing price of $9.87 on Friday.

Recent years have seen significant advances for treating hepatitis C - a serious liver disease that afflicts an estimated 180 million people worldwide - while setting off a scramble among large drugmakers to secure the most promising products.

The Bristol-Inhibitex deal comes on the heels of Gilead Sciences Inc’s $11 billion acquisition in November of Pharmasset Inc, which has its own promsing hepatitis C therapies. That deal was at an 89 percent premium.

Inhibitex’s lead asset is INX-189, an oral drug in Phase II or mid-stage development. Bristol envisions combining INX-189 with products in its own pipeline to create an all-oral regimen that would eliminate the need for interferons, which often cause flu-like side effects that lead many hepatitis C patients to stop or delay treatment.

Bristol expects the transaction to hurt earnings through 2016. That includes an expected hit to earnings per share of about 4 cents in 2012 and 5 cents in 2013.

Analysts on average expect Bristol to earn $2.01 per share in both 2012 and 2013, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reporting By Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by John O'Callaghan

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