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Icagen investors seek higher price than Pfizer's purchase offer

Two large Icagen investors say that Pfizer's $56 million takeover offer for the Durham drug-development company is too low and will push for a higher price.

Pfizer announced on July 20 that it planned to buy the remaining shares of Icagen it doesn't already own for $6 each.

But Merlin Nexus and New Leaf Venture Partners believe that Icagen's shares could be worth up to three time as much, the investment firms wrote in a letter last week to Icagen's board and chairman Charles Sanders. The firms disclosed the letter in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday.

"We believe the purchase price dramatically undervalues Icagen’s assets, and is not in the best interests of all stockholders," they wrote.

Merck to lay off thousands more by 2015

Merck plans to slash up to 13,000 more jobs by 2015, the latest large pharmaceutical corporation seeking to offset slowing sales by cutting costs.

Merck expects to continue hiring in growth areas of its business, including emerging markets. The company also will stick with expansion plans at its massive Durham operations, which packages and eventually will grow vaccines to protect against chicken pox and other diseases.

Officials expect to hire more than 150 people at that campus this year, adding to the 450 jobs created during the past few years.

Merck also continues to expand a packaging facility in Wilson that employs about 350 people.

Company spokesman David Caouette told the Associated Press that 35 percent to 40 percent of the new job cuts will be in the U.S., but that he couldn't provide specifics.

The cost-cutting news follows a similar strategy at other big drug makers, including Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. Faced with increasing generic competition and lower reimbursements from government health programs, the companies are reducing expenses, pushing harder to find promising new drugs and fine-tuning their business to appease investors.

Pozen reports weaker financial results

A small Chapel Hill company developing a safer form of aspirin reported a bigger-than-expected net loss for the second quarter.

Pozen's loss of $6.4 million came as the company spends millions to develop  aspirin for patients who are at risk of developing gastric ulcers. The company expects to seek Food and Drug Administration approval for the drug late next year.

Revenue for the second quarter fell to $4.6 million, which was also less than Wall Street analysts had expected.

Most of Pozen's revenue comes from its Treximet migraine medicine, which is sold by larger partner GlaxoSmithKline, and its Vimovo arthritis pain reliever, sold by AstraZeneca. Pozen receives royalties from the sales.

GSK's stronger profit points to healthier results ahead

GlaxoSmithKline reported a decline in quarterly sales this morning, but CEO Andrew Witty said the drug maker expects to see healthier results during the next year.

Revenue fell about 4 percent to $10.9 billion, after converting from British pounds, hurt by weaker sales of the controversial diabetes drug Avandia, the Valtrex herpes treatment and pandemic flu products.

Excluding those products, GSK sales rose 5 percent, boosted by higher revenue in Japan and various emerging markets.

The British corporation also reported a profit of $1.8 billion, reversing a loss during the same period last year.

The company, which employs about 4,400 people in the Triangle, has slashed costs and thousands of jobs worldwide in recent years to offset slower sales growth.

Pfizer to buy Durham's Icagen for $56 million

Icagen agreed to be bought by its larger partner Pfizer for $6 per share, or about $56 million, a price that's less than what Wall Street was expecting.

Shares of Icagen, a small, Durham-based drug-development company, surged last month after Pfizer disclosed the companies were in discussions about a "strategic transaction."

On Tuesday, Icagen shares closed at $7.75, more than triple the price of a month ago.

But its shares fell 23 percent to $5.95 in midday trading today, after the companies announced that Pfizer, which already owns more than 1 million Icagen shares, will buy the remaining 8.3 million shares for $6 each.

"The price is really on the low range of what investors had been expecting," said Christopher James, who follows Icagen for McNicoll Lewis Vlak. He doesn't own Icagen or Pfizer shares.

Longistics hiring drivers as business expands

A Raleigh company that provides shipping, transportation and various support services for pharmaceutical companies and other customers is seeking to hire more than 50 drivers as its business expands.

Longistics will hold a job fair at its headquarters on Saturday to find qualified candidates. The average starting salary for its drivers is $60,000 a year.

The private company, run by the husband-and-wife team of Duane and Pat Long, has won several new contracts and is also seeing a pickup in business with existing customers.

Pfizer may sell animal-health business with local operations

Pfizer announced this morning that it may sell its animal-health business, which employs more than 250 people in the Triangle.

The world's largest drugmaker will consider a sale or spin-off of its animal-health and nutrition divisions to focus more resources on expanding its pharmaceutical business.

The New York corporation could pick different strategies for each division, and doesn't expect to make any more announcements until sometime in 2012. Any transaction could take up to two years to complete.

The animal-health poultry division employs about 250 people in Durham and 20 more in Laurinburg.

Icagen shares soar on possible takeover by Pfizer

Icagen shares surged today, as investors bet that the Durham company will be bought for a premium by larger partner Pfizer.

Late Friday, Pfizer disclosed that it's in discussions about a "strategic transaction" with Icagen. Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, first formed a partnership with Icagen in 2007 to develop new pain medicines.

Icagen could be worth $50 million to $100 million in a takeover, McNicoll, Lewis & Vlak analyst Christopher James told Bloomberg News. That would make Icagen's shares worth up to $13 each.

In midday trading, Icagen's stock rose $3.09 to $5.49. That's the highest level in more than a year.

Icagen discusses possible sale to partner Pfizer

Icagen, a Durham drug development company that has struggled financially, is in discussions about a possible takeover by its much-larger partner Pfizer.

Pfizer disclosed in a regulatory filing this afternoon that it is "evaluating the possibility of entering into a strategic transaction with Icagen."

Icagen began a collaboration with Pfizer in 2007 to develop new pain medicines. As part of that partnership, Pfizer has paid Icagen millions of dollars in milestone fees. It also bought more than 1 million Icagen shares and now owns a 14 percent stake in the company.

In a prepared statement late today, Icagen acknowledged that its executives are in talks with Pfizer, but that no agreement has been reached. The company "does not plan to make future announcements with respect to this matter" until a deal is reached, the current partnership agreement with Pfizer is extended or the discussions have terminated.

GSK brands attracting interest among buyers, CEO says

GlaxoSmithKline is attracting multiple bidders for the consumer-health brands it plans to sell, CEO Andrew Witty said today in Brussels.

The sale process "will start to roll at the end of the summer," Witty said after a news conference in Brussels, Bloomberg News reported.

GSK announced earlier this year that it wants to sell 19 brands, including the Alli diet pill, Beano gas relief, Nytol sleep aid, and Goody's and BC headache powders.

The assets are getting strong interest from private equity firms and pharmaceutical companies, Witty said. "I am very pleased with the interest," he said.

Combined, the products contribute more than $800 a year in revenue for GSK, the British company with a North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park.

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