Novartis positions itself as eye care giant with Alcon merger

BASEL, Switzerland — Novartis on Wednesday announced that its merger agreement with Alcon has been settled to the tune of $12.9 billion. The new $8.7 billion Alcon eye care division, which includes CIBA Vision and selected ophthalmic medicines, will be led by current Alcon president and CEO Kevin Buehler.

Shares of Novartis were up 7.6% to more than $60 in early morning trading.

"The full merger is the logical conclusion of our initial strategic investment in Alcon,” stated Daniel Vasella, Novartis chairman.

“The growth synergies here are significant, as Alcon will be the eye care development engine for our best-in-class research organization, and will leverage the Novartis market access capabilities [outside the United States]," added Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis.

Full ownership of Alcon provides Novartis with the opportunity to establish a fifth growth platform as part of its healthcare portfolio, the Swiss drug developer noted. The eye care sector offers further growth opportunities underpinned by the increasing unmet needs of emerging markets and an aging population.

The Alcon and Novartis eye care portfolios address a broad range of these unmet needs, the company stated. The companies have complementary pharmaceutical portfolios for diseases in the front and back areas of the eye, as well as strong global brands in lens care. Alcon is a global leader in ophthalmic surgical products, while Novartis has a broad contact lens portfolio and advanced eye care technologies, as well as an early pipeline of innovative ophthalmic medicines.

The merger currently is expected to be completed during the first half of 2011 and is conditional on clearance of a registration statement by the Securities and Exchange Commission, two-thirds approval by the shareholders of each of Novartis and Alcon voting at their respective meetings and other customary closing conditions.