Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG has agreed to buy U.S. biotech company InterMune Inc. for $8.3 billion in cash, marking the latest multibillion-dollar deal in a consolidating pharmaceutical sector.
Roche said on Sunday it would pay $74 a share for InterMune, representing a premium of 38 percent to Friday's closing price.
The acquisition, which has been recommended by the boards of both companies, is the largest by Roche since 2009, when it bought out the remaining stake it did not already own in U.S. group Genentech for around $47 billion.
The sale of InterMune will not come as a huge surprise to investors. People familiar with the matter said earlier this month that InterMune was working with financial advisers to evaluate strategic options, due to takeover interest from larger drugmakers.
Adding InterMune to its portfolio will give Roche a promising new drug, pirfenidone, for treating a progressive and ultimately fatal scarring condition of the lungs. Pirfenidone is approved for so-called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in Europe and Canada and is undergoing U.S. regulatory review.
The deal is a further step by Roche to diversify away from its reliance on cancer drugs, where it is the world leader, by expanding into other disease areas, such as respiratory medicine.
Roche already markets lung drugs Pulmozyme and Xolair in the United States and has other experimental respiratory products in clinical development.
Roche said the transaction was expected to be neutral for its core earnings per share in 2015 but would boost profits from 2016 onwards.
Healthcare companies are merging at a record pace, with year-to-date activity topping $346 billion, compared to $212 billion in the year-ago period, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Recent large deals have included AbbVie Inc.'s $54 billion acquisition of Shire Plc and Medtronic Inc's acquisition of Covidien Plc for $43 billion. AstraZeneca Plc, meanwhile, fended off a $118 billion takeover attempt by Pfizer Inc.
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.