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Pfizer raises AztraZeneca offer for 3rd time highlighting flurry of drug industry deals

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer has raised its takeover bid for British rival AstraZeneca for a third time, hiking the stock-and-cash offer to nearly $119 billion (70.7 billion pounds). The move is the latest in a flurry of proposed drug takeovers this year. The deals highlight how the global pharmaceutical industry could over time consolidate into a very small number of massive companies as competition increases from generic versions of medicines. The enhanced economies of scale could boost returns for shareholders but what it means for consumers is still unclear.


Pfizer Inc., the world's second-biggest drugmaker by revenue, has been courting No. 8 AstraZeneca PLC since January, saying their businesses are complementary and would be stronger together. AstraZeneca has repeatedly rejected Pfizer's offers, insisting they significantly undervalue the company and its experimental drugs. The company and British government officials also have raised concerns about the prospect of job cuts, facility closures and the U.K. losing some of its science leadership.


Germany's Bayer AG, which invented aspirin more than a century ago, announced a $14.2 billion deal in May to buy Merck's consumer health business. The deal would make Bayer No. 1 worldwide in skin and gastrointestinal products, No. 2 in the huge cold and allergy category, and No. 3 in pain relievers. For Merck & Co., it's an opportunity to shed a slow-growing business it inherited in 2009 when it bought Schering-Plough Corp. to get its experimental prescription medicines. The deal still needs regulatory approval.


In April, Switzerland's Novartis AG agreed to buy GlaxoSmithKline's cancer-drug business for up to $16 billion, to sell most of its vaccines business to GSK for $7.1 billion, plus royalties, and to sell its animal health division to Eli Lilly and Co. of Indianapolis for about $5.4 billion. The deals are likely to be completed in the first half of 2015.


Canada's Valeant Pharmaceuticals has made an unsolicited offer of nearly $46 billion for Botox maker Allergan Inc., which has turned it down, so far. Allergan, which also makes the dry eye treatment Restasis, says its growth prospects are stronger as a separate company.

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