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AstraZeneca Acquires Omthera Pharmaceuticals for Up to $443 Million

LONDON -- The shares of AstraZeneca  (LSE: AZN  ) (NYSE: AZN  ) added 50 pence to 3,479 pence during early London trading this morning after the company announced the purchase of Omthera Pharmaceuticals  (UNKNOWN: OMTH.DL  ) .

The FTSE 100 member said it would acquire Omthera for $12.70 per share, some 88% above Friday's closing price and valuing the New Jersey-based firm at $323 million. AstraZeneca will also pay up to a further $4.70 per share based on Omthera's future performance.

The total potential acquisition cost could therefore be $443 million.

Founded in 2008, Omthera listed on Nasdaq just last month at $8 a share. The group employs 14 people and is developing a fish-oil capsule branded Epanova to treat high levels of triglyceride and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's chief executive, said:

The number of people with elevated triglyceride levels is rising rapidly across the world, due in part to the increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes.

This is an exciting acquisition that clearly complements our existing portfolio in cardiovascular and metabolic disease, one of our core therapy areas.

Gerald Wisler, Omthera's chief execuitive, added:

We believe strongly that AstraZeneca can maximize the value of Epanova not only as a monotherapy treatment for dyslipidemia but also as a treatment for cardiovascular disease in combination with Crestor.

Last year, AstraZeneca spent more than $1 billion on acquisitions in an effort to revive the group's progress. Final results issued in January showed underlying revenues down 15% and warned of a further 5-10% drop for 2013.

However, a $2.80 -- or 185 pence -- per share dividend declared for 2012 currently supports a 5.3% yield.

Of course, whether that high income, this morning's acquisition news, as well as the wider prospects of the pharmaceutical industry, all combine to make AstraZeneca a buy is something only you can decide.

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