REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

New York-based pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb said on Thursday it would buy US biotech firm Celgene Corp for about $74 billion (£58.63 billion), combining two of the world’s largest cancer drug businesses in the biggest pharmaceutical deal ever.

The buyout will see Bristol-Myers shareholders own about 69 percent of the merged company, with 31 percent going to Celgene shareholders, according to the statement.

The new specialty firm will focus on treating people with serious conditions including cancer, offering nine products with “more than $1 billion in annual sales,” the companies said.

Under the agreement Celgene shareholders will receive one Bristol-Myers Squibb share along with $50 in cash for each Celgene share, the statement said.

Including debt, the deal is worth $95 billion, eclipsing Pfizer’s $89 billion purchase of Warner-Lambert in 2000, according to Refinitiv.

Both Bristol-Myers and Celgene face separate challenges, and the combination would create $2.5 billion in cost savings and significantly raise earnings, the companies claimed. Amid clinical setbacks and other missteps, Bristol-Myers shares fell 15.2 percent in 2018 while Celgene plunged nearly 40 percent last year.

Bristol’s most important cancer immunotherapy and growth driver, Opdivo, has lost much of its luster as Merck & Co’s rival drug Keytruda seized dominance in advanced lung cancer, the most lucrative oncology market. Meanwhile, Celgene has endured high-profile clinical failures and U.S. exclusivity on its flagship multiple myeloma drug, Revlimid, will start being phased out in 2022.

“Together with Celgene, we are creating an innovative biopharma leader, with leading franchises and a deep and broad pipeline that will drive sustainable growth and deliver new options for patients across a range of serious diseases,” said Bristol-Myers Squibb Chairman and CEO Giovanni Caforio in the statement.

Caforio will continue to serve in those capacities, while two members of Celgene’s board will hold spots on Bristol-Myers Squibb’s board of directors.

Bristol-Myers Squibb said it expects six product launches over the next two years – five coming from Celgene’s pipeline. It also highlighted promising early clinical assets it would gain with the New Jersey-based biotech.

Celgene brings experience with potentially revolutionary CAR-T therapies from its $9 billion purchase of Juno Therapeutics and the bluebird collaboration. The therapy takes immune cells from a patient, engineers them to better recognize and attack cancer and returns them to the patient.

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