J&J agrees to buy Crucell for $2.4B

Johnson & Johnson announced this morning that it has reached a deal to buy all outstanding equity of Dutch vaccines maker Crucell that it does not already own for approximately €1.75 billion ($2.43 billion). The news comes even as some major Crucell shareholders have expressed concerns that the bid is too low, Dow Jones reports. J&J currently owns 17.9 percent of Crucell's outstanding shares.

News of the agreement comes less than a month after J&J said it was close to reaching a deal with Crucell. The pharma giant says it expects to maintain Crucell's existing facilities, its senior management and, generally, its current employment levels. It also intends to keep Crucell as the center for vaccines within the J&J pharmaceutical group and maintain its headquarters in Leiden, according to the company's statement.

"This potential combination would provide us with a new platform for growth and advances our goal to deliver integrated health care solutions, with particular emphasis on prevention," says Paul Stoffels, J&J's global head, pharmaceutical research and development, "Operational excellence in manufacturing and supply chain has made Crucell an established and reliable supplier of vaccines, in particular to emerging markets. We hope to build on those capabilities, and the expertise and talent of Crucell's employees to continue making a difference in the lives of people worldwide."

A spokesman for private investment company Van Herk Groep, the second-largest shareholder in Crucell, last month said the proposed offer was meager and declined to comment on whether the firm will tender its shares, as it was waiting for the formal offer, Dow Jones reported at the time. Delta Lloyd Asset Management, Crucell's third-largest shareholder, is saying that it will study the offer and discuss it further with J&J in coming weeks. "We're not celebrating yet," Jack Jonk, head of equities at the asset manager, tells Dow Jones Newswires. And, according to DutchNews.nl, shareholders lobby group VEB has asked Crucell why it is so keen to accept the J&J offer. It estimates Crucell CEO Ronald Brus could make up to €12 million from his option package if the deal goes through.

In September 2009, Johnson & Johnson entered an agreement with Crucell to develop a universal influenza monoclonal antibody and a universal flu vaccine for the treatment and prevention of influenza, as well as a long-term innovation collaboration for the development of monoclonal antibodies and/or vaccines directed against up to three other infectious and non-infectious disease targets.

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