3 Major Health-Care Deals You Need to Know About

Forest Laboratories, Inc.'s (NYSE: FRX) purchase of Aptalis is just the latest in a plethora of major health-care deals.

Feb 10, 2014 at 11:11PM

The year is only a handful of weeks old, and already there has been a raft of takeover activity among major pharmaceutical stocks!

Most recent was the completion of a $2.9 billion purchase of Aptalis, a company that manufactures treatments for cystic fibrosis and gastrointestinal problems, by Forest Laboratories (NYSE:FRX).

The move is said to generate an additional $700 million in revenue per year for Forest Laboratories, and, crucially, the market seems to have welcomed it. Shares of Forest Laboratories are up more than 17% since the deal was first announced despite a weak wider market. Year to date, Forest Laboratories has beaten the S&P 500 by just under 18% -- highlighting how popular the acquisition is on the Street.

The move forms part of a new strategy under Brenton Saunders, CEO, as he seeks to increase medium- to long-term growth prospects. As well as this major acquisition, Forest Laboratories is set to cut costs by around $500 million and commence a large-scale share buyback of $400 million in 2014, with the company also lining up further acquisitions in addition to the Aptalis deal and the purchase of U.S. marketing rights to Merck's schizophrenia drug, Saphris.

However, the purchase of Aptalis isn't the only major deal of 2014. Just last week, Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) and AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) confirmed the latter's purchase of the former's stake in the diabetes alliance joint venture for an initial sum of $2.7 billion.

The deal seems to be a convenient move for both companies, as Bristol-Myers Squibb attempts to restructure away from being a drug manufacturer for the masses and instead seeks to focus on specialist, niche-product offerings.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca spent much of 2013 on an acquisition spree as it seeks to overcome a patent cliff (resulting from generic competition) that has caused a severe demise in total sales and net profit. However, with diabetes remaining a high-growth area (where the number of sufferers is set to increase from more than 300 million to more than 500 million in the next 20 years), it could prove to be a good move for AstraZeneca.

In addition to those deals, the biggest of them all has seen Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) sell its blood-testing unit to private-equity outfit Carlyle Group for just over $4 billion. The move is part of a shift from what Johnson & Johnson deems to be lower-growth divisions, as it seeks to reinvigorate a top line that has struggled to post much growth in the last handful of years.

So, while interest rates remain low and health-care companies continue to benefit from having relatively low debt levels and the financial flexibility that such a situation brings, dealmaking could continue to feature during the rest of 2014.

Certainly, there are a number of major pharmaceutical companies that are struggling to cope with the effects of generic competition and, as a result, are seeking to buy top- and bottom-line growth. As such, the pace of dealmaking year-to-date may not abate just yet.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of AstraZeneca. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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