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Novartis eyes representation on Alcon board

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

Alcon will vote on the conditional election of directors nominated by Novartis at an "extraordinary" shareholder meeting Aug. 16. Prospective directors would "face an obvious conflict of interest with respect to Novartis' merger proposal to Alcon's minority shareholders," said Thomas Plaskett, chairman of the Alcon independent director committee. Novartis acquired 25 percent of Alcon in 2008 and is in the process of buying out Nestle's remaining 52 percent stake in the eye care firm (1"The Tan Sheet" July 14, 2008, In Brief). Novartis' five board nominees would replace directors nominated by Nestle. Alcon continues to resist Novartis' bid for its remaining 23 percent stake, once again calling the bid "grossly inadequate" in a June 28 release (2"The Tan Sheet" Feb. 15, 2010)

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Sanofi's consumer sales soar: Sanofi-Aventis' rapidly expanding consumer business grew 27 percent in 2009 to 1.43 billion euros ($1.96 billion). Sanofi plans to double Chattem's sales of $1.4 billion in part by switching the prescription allergy drug Allegra in early 2011, CEO Christopher Viehbacher said during a Feb. 10 earnings call (1"The Tan Sheet" Jan. 4, 2010). Sanofi completed its $19 billion acquisition of Chattem Feb. 9 (2"The Tan Sheet" Feb. 1, 2010). Overall, the firm's fiscal 2009 sales grew 5.3 percent at constant exchange to 29.3 billion euros ($40.26 billion). The firm continues to focus on its long-term, sustainable growth strategy of expanding its consumer health business, but Viehbacher notes the Paris firm has not forgotten its short-term strategy. "Sometimes you hear people talk about the long term because the short term is not so good," but Sanofi's 13.1 percent increase in earnings per share in fiscal 2009 to 6.49 euros ($8.91 based on Feb. 10 exchange rates) denotes a "very strong performance," he said

Alcon deal closes

Novartis closes its acquisition of a 25 percent stake in Alcon as part of an agreement with Nestle announced in April. Nestle said previously it would sell 74 million shares of its Alcon eye-care product firm to Novartis at $143.18 a share (1"The Tan Sheet" April 14, 2008, In Brief). Novartis purchased the stake in Alcon for approximately $10.4 billion in cash - $200 million less than previously announced, to account for the "Alcon dividend paid in May 2008 for these shares to Nestle rather than Novartis," the Switzerland-based firm says. There is also an optional second step, which would allow Novartis to acquire the remaining 52 percent stake held by Nestle between January 2010 and July 2011 for a price not exceeding $28 billion. Novartis says completion of the optional second step would make Alcon a "majority-owned subsidiary of Novartis, strengthening a portfolio focused on growth areas of health care"...

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