Marlboro maker Philip Morris to buy UK drugmaker in 'beyond nicotine' push

(Reuters) -Marlboro cigarettes maker Philip Morris International agreed on Friday to buy British drugmaker Vectura for 1.05 billions pounds ($1.44 billion) to bolster its portfolio of products that are free from tobacco or nicotine.

Philip Morris International Operation Center is pictured in Lausanne August 19, 2009. Philip Morris International (PMI) is the leading international tobacco company, with products sold in approximately 160 countries. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Files

The deal, which topped a proposal by investment firm Carlyle Group, means shareholders in the drugmaker that makes about 13 inhaled medicines will get 150 pence per share in cash, 11% higher than its Thursday closing price.

Carlyle’s offer, agreed in May, was 136 pence per share.

Vectura, whose shares rose nearly 13% to 152 pence at 0730 GMT, said it was withdrawing its recommendation for the Carlyle offer in favour of the Philip Morris bid and was adjourning a shareholder meeting it had convened on Monday.

Carlyle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The deal is Philip Morris’ second international acquisition in the past week, after agreeing to buy nicotine gum maker Fertin Pharma from private equity firm EQT for 5.1 billion Danish Krone ($812 million).

The cigarette maker unveiled its ‘beyond nicotine’ strategy in February, as it expects more people to quit smoking in the coming years amid health concerns and regulatory crackdowns.

The U.S.-based company has plans for Vectura to operate as an independent unit at the centre of its inhaled therapeutics business, seeking to use its expertise in inhalation and aerosolization in areas such as respiratory drug delivery.

Philip Morris Chief Executive Jacek Olczak said the Vectura acquisition after buying Fertin Pharma would help the U.S. firm accelerate its ‘beyond nicotine’ strategy “by expanding our capabilities in innovative inhaled and oral product formulations.”

The deal requires the approval of shareholders, among other conditions.

($1 = 0.7264 pounds)

($1 = 6.2842 Danish crowns)

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