Bayer to Pay Nearly $3B for Roche Business

LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - Bayer AG, the maker of Alka Seltzer stomach remedies and Aspirin, has agreed to buy Roche Holding AG's non-prescription drug unit for euro 2.38 billion ($2.97 billion), to become one of the top three sellers of over-the-counter medicines, according to published reports.

The expanded division will have annual sales of euro 2.4 billion. Bayer will get Roche's 50 percent share of the companies' 1997 joint venture in the U.S., Bayer said in a statement. Bayer, Germany's second-largest drug and chemical maker, is not buying Roche's over-the-counter business in Japan.

The purchase allows Bayer to rival Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson as top sellers of non-prescription drugs, with about 5 percent market share, Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer said. Chief executive Werner Wenning expects the consumer unit to outpace the market after the loss of the patent for his top drug, the antibiotic Cipro, hurt the prescription unit.

Bloomberg reports that Bayer has only one prescription medicine, a cancer treatment, in the final stage of development.

The companies already market the Aleve painkiller together, and Bayer will get Roche's Rennie antacid.
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