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Berna Biotech buys Dutch rival

Berna Biotech's smallpox vaccine sales soared in the wake of September 11


Swiss biotech group and vaccine specialist Berna Biotech is to buy the Dutch vaccine maker, Rhein Biotech, for SFr405 million.

The deal comes after the Swiss company posted a record net profit of SFr41.4 million in 2001 helped in part by sales of smallpox vaccines in the wake of September 11.

The tender offer is worth €68.5 (SFr99.6) per Rhein share and comprises €33.75 in cash plus 1.42 post-split Berna shares.

Together the firms will have vaccine sales of €140 million in 2002. The plan is to boost this to €300 million by 2005, making the combined unit one of the world's leading providers.

The integrated company, operating under the name of Berna Biotech, and headquartered in Bern will have 965 employees.

"Our companies are a natural fit," said Kuno Sommer, CEO of Berna Biotech. "There are growth-accelerating synergies throughout, from discovery to sales and marketing.

Sommer, who was formerly director of worldwide marketing at Roche, was named as a defendant in the Basel-based company's vitamin price-fixing law suit in the United States three years ago.

State-of-the-art facilities

It will have state-of-the-art research and development facilities in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Korea; manufacturing facilities in Switzerland, Korea and Argentina; and a sales and marketing infrastructure in Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Korea.

Earlier this month, Berna Biotech proposed splitting its shares 25 for one and increasing its capital as it gears up to seize on any merger and acquisition opportunities.

The company had sales of SFr303.8 million in 2001 but expects this to fall to around SFr200 million this year as the one-off impact of smallpox vaccines fades.

Rhein Biotech is the world's third largest maker of hepatitis B vaccines. Earlier this month, it reported a 50 per cent fall in first-quarter operating profit on a slight year-on-year rise in sales.

It said at the time that it was looking for collaboration accords with other companies to boost its distribution network and help its products gain approval from European regulatory authorities.

Rhein has forecast its sales would rise some 15-20 per cent in 2002, from €82.3 million in 2001. It expects group profit to hold steady at around €6.8 million.

swissinfo with agencies

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