Merck KGaA: Millipore buy 'worth every euro'

Merck KGaA's $6 billion purchase of Massachusetts-based biotechnology equipment supplier Millipore is "worth every euro," CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley told shareholders at his company's annual general meeting today. In February, the German drugmaker swooped in with an offer for Millipore, beating out Thermo Fisher. Including debt, the deal is valued at $7.2 billion.  

"In the days after the Feb. 28 announcement of the acquisition, I was asked a couple of times whether the price was too high," said Kley, according to Bloomberg. "I have a clear answer: No, Millipore is worth every euro." He added that the deal should close in the second half of this year. It's the biggest acquisition for the company since its $13.7 billion purchase of Serono in 2007, Bloomberg notes.

Kley also said he expects sales and profit to grow in 2010, but he doesn't expect an easy year, Dow Jones reports. "Despite positive signals, the crisis is far from over in many sectors of the global economy," he told shareholders. Merck still expects its operating result to rise 20 percent to 30 percent this year on a sales increase of 3 percent to 7 percent, he said.

During the meeting, Kley also stated the company plans to resubmit its cladribine application "as quickly as possible." The FDA handed back the app for the multiple sclerosis therapy last November, calling it incomplete and delaying any U.S. launch. Elmar Schnee, the head of Merck's drug unit, added that advisors to EU regulators would probably issue an assessment of the drug in the third quarter; he also expressed confidence about an approval, Reuters reports.

Merck also is cooperating with authorities to investigate why a patient taking its experimental cancer vaccine Stimuvax developed a brain infection, said Kley. Last month, researchers suspended dosing for the multiple myeloma vaccine candidate after a patient enrolled in the mid-stage trial contracted encephalitis. The Phase II trial matches Stimuvax--a closely watched blockbuster candidate--with cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapy drug that is not used in other trials of the cancer vaccine.

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