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Merck and Schering-Plough propose shareholder settlement

Published on 28/07/09 at 02:45pm

Merck and Schering-Plough's legal battles with their shareholders may be approaching a truce.

Two class action lawsuits earlier this year pitched some shareholders against the pharma firms, in a bid to dig in their heels and block the companies' planned merger.

Now Merck and Schering-Plough have proposed a settlement which, subject to court approval, would see them provide additional information on the deal, most of which has now been made public.

Part of the action against the companies questions the price of the $41 billion merger - with some Merck shareholders saying it is too much while those from Schering Plough argue that it is not enough.

Under the new proposal, no damages would be paid by Merck or Schering-Plough but the plaintiffs may be able to have their lawyers' fees and costs paid by Merck.

The settlement would draw a line under "all claims that were or could have been brought" by shareholders challenging the deal.

However, Merck insists the proposed settlement does not represent the running up of a white flag.

The move "is not in any way an admission of any wrongdoing or liability in connection with plaintiffs' allegations", a statement said. Instead, avoiding the cost and "inherent uncertainty" of a courtroom skirmish were instead the main aims.

The merger would create the world's second largest drug company and provide a much-needed boost for Merck's growth.

In March, Datamonitor forecast that the company's prescription pharma business would see a compound annual growth rate sales decline of -0.3% between 2008 and 2013.

The merger would lift this figure to 1.7% over the same period, with Schering-Plough's own sales figure expected to be 4.5%.

A vote on whether to approve the merger is expected next month.

Sales decline at Merck

Meanwhile, Merck saw global sales decline 3% year-on-year for the second quarter of 2009 to $5.9 billion, with a mixed picture for individual brands.

Merck's DPP-4 inhibitor Januvia, for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, saw sales rise 38% to $462 million and asthma treatment Singulair was up 16% to $1.3 billion.

But cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil declined 18% to $268 million, combined figures for Zetia and Vytorin were down 10% to $1 billion and hypertension medicines Cozaar and Hyzaar fell 4% to $906 million.

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