Merck to buy Imago for $1.35 bln to broaden portfolio of blood disorder drugs

The Merck logo is seen at a gate to the Merck & Co campus in Rahway, New Jersey, U.S., July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Nov 21 (Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) said on Monday it will acquire cancer drug developer Imago BioSciences Inc (IMGO.O) for a total equity value of $1.35 billion to expand its portfolio of blood disorder treatments.

The offer of $36 per share in cash for Imago represents a nearly 107% premium to the company's last close. Imago's shares more than doubled in early trading to $35.53.

With Merck's blockbuster cancer immunotherapy Keytruda expected to lose key patents in 2028, the company has been trying to expand its drug portfolio.

Last year, it bought Acceleron Pharma for about $11.5 billion to gain access to its experimental therapy for treating a type of high blood pressure.

Merck was reported to be in talks to buy cancer-focused biotech Seagen Inc (SGEN.O) over the summer, for nearly $40 billion, but a deal did not materialize.

Estimated revenue potential of the Imago deal is probably not enough to fill the loss of exclusivity gap left by Keytruda later in this decade, BMO Capital Markets analyst Evan Seigerman said.

Seigerman added that he expects the company to do more deals that can help fill the revenue gap from Keytruda's patent loss.

Imago, which develops drugs for the treatment of bone marrow-related diseases, is currently testing its lead drug bomedemstat in mid-stage studies for treating certain types of rare blood cancers.

Merck did not provide details on the effect of the Imago deal on its financial results in the near term.

The company said it will initiate a tender offer to acquire all outstanding Imago shares through a unit, which will be merged into Imago upon completion of the offer.

The companies expect to close the transaction in the first quarter of 2023.

Reporting by Raghav Mahobe in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Shounak Dasgupta

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