Novartis shelled out $10.4 billion to Nestle for a 25% stake in eye care company Alcon.
The drugmaker holds exclusive rights to acquire Nestle's remaining 52% share in the company under an option commencing January 1, 2010, and running through July 31, 2011.
The acquisition would broaden Novartis' consumer ophthalmic franchise, a useful hedge at a difficult time for pharma. Fort Worth, TX-based Alcon's products include: the Opti-Free contact lens care franchise, along with Systane lubricant drops and I-Caps eye vitamin drops; surgical products including AcrySof lenses; eye allergy drop Patanol and ear infection treatment Ciprodex. Novartis ophthalmic products include its CIBA Vision contact lens line and, outside of the US, wet AMD treatment Lucentis.
As part of the deal, Novartis chairman and CEO Daniel Vasella joins Alcon's board of directors, along with Nestle EVP/CFO James Singh.