November 23, 2019 / 8:06 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-Novartis nears deal to buy U.S. biotech firm Medicines Co for about $7 bln- WSJ

(Adds details from report, background, response from Novartis)

Nov 23 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG is nearing an agreement to acquire U.S. biotechnology firm The Medicines Co for about $7 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on.wsj.com/2qveZtj on Saturday.

The deal, in which Novartis has agreed to pay $85 a share, could be announced this weekend, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Going by a fully diluted share count, the agreement is worth about $10 billion, according to the report.

Novartis declined to comment. The Medicines Co did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

The deal could broaden the Swiss drugmaker's cabinet of heart medicines and shore up growth threatened by patent expirations.

Novartis has been hunting for a $5 billion acquisition in the United States, two banking sources told Reuters earlier this week without identifying a target.

New Jersey-based The Medicines Co's top drug candidate is cholesterol-lowering drug inclisiran for heart patients. Novartis has historically had a strong cardiovascular drug franchise, but lost ground when Diovan, once a $6 billion-per-year seller, lost patent protection in 2012 and left the company without an immediate, innovative follow-up product.

Novartis has since been building up its portfolio, which now includes Entresto, a $1 billion seller for heart failure, as well as an experimental RNA-targeting molecule from Ionis Pharmaceuticals that it licensed earlier this year for $150 million. (Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Chizu Nomiyama)

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