Novartis bids to buy U.S. vaccine maker Chiron

Novartis today offered $4.5 billion to purchase the remaining shares of U.S. drugmaker Chiron in a bid to gain a firm foothold in the vaccines business.
Novartis, currently owns 42.2 percent of Chiron, which is based in Emeryville, Calif. Chiron just broke even in the second quarter of 2005 as the company struggled to produce enough of its flu vaccine to supply to customers before the coming winter, due to problems at manufacturing plants in Germany and the U.K.
However, after a favorable FDA inspection report of a Chiron plant in Liverpool, England, the company is expected to start supplying its flu vaccine again for the 2005-2006 season.
Analysts said the deal would give Novartis access to a range of vaccines at a time when interest in vaccination is growing amid fears of a bird flu pandemic.
Novartis has already spent $8 billion this year on two generics companies and spent $660 million in cash to purchase Bristol-Myers Squibb's portfolio of non-prescription drugs.
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