A Medical Device Daily

Alcon (Huenenberg, Switzerland) reported that it has significantly increased its offered price for WaveLight (Erlangen, Germany) and that the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority has approved publication of the company’s tender offer document for the maker of refractive laser and diagnostic systems.

The tender offer acceptance period began this past Monday and will conclude on Sept. 11. Alcon, which owns on a settled basis or has contractual commitments for about 16% of WaveLight’s issued shares, said its intention is to increase its current stake to at least 75% through the tender offer process.

Having previously executed a business combination agreement between the two companies in mid-July (Medical Device Daily; July 17, 2007), Alcon said the tender offer is the second step in completing the acquisition.

WaveLight’s products include the Allegretto laser system for refractive eye surgery.

Alcon said that, in response to recent trading activity, it has increased its previously reported offer for WaveLight from €10 ($13.69 per share at Monday’s exchange rates) to €15 ($20.53). It said the offer represents a 100% premium on the one-month (€7.49) and a 118% premium on the three-month (€6.88) volume weighted average stock exchange price of WaveLight shares during the period prior to its announcement to launch its offer for the German firm.

Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Bye told Reuters that the deal made sense for Alcon due to the value of WaveLight’s Allegretto laser surgery system. “We still consider this a fair price for WaveLight’s refractive assets, which we regard as the second most valuable globally behind Advanced Medical Optics,” he said

When they announced the acquisition plans last month, the companies said the Allegretto laser has a global installed base of more than 800 units and offers the fastest ablation speed on the market today.

Alcon said the addition of that technology and the combination of the two companies’ capabilities ‘will further reinforce Alcon’s leadership in the important surgical channel represented by surgeons who perform both intraocular lens implantation and laser refractive surgery.”

“We believe that this compelling offer is a unique opportunity for WaveLight’s employees, customers and shareholders and that WaveLight’s Executive Committee will strongly support Alcon’s offer and will recommend acceptance of the offer to its shareholders upon review of the final tender offer document,” said Cary Rayment, Alcon chairman, president and CEO.

Alcon is a global leader in eye care, with 2006 sales of about $4.9 billion. It manufactures pharmaceuticals, surgical equipment and devices, contact lens care solutions and other vision care products. The company’s majority shareholder is food products giant Nestlé.

Larry Biegelsen, senior analyst in the Medical Supplies & Devices sector for Wachovia Capital Markets (New York), said, “In our view, Nestlé can decide to reduce its stake in Alcon, which we think could cause a short-term dip in the stock but would be positive for Alcon shares longer term because it would increase the float.”

He added, “Nestlé could find a strategic buyer for Alcon, but the number of companies who would be interested and who could afford to acquire Alcon is limited.”

UK plans national dementia effort

UK Health Minister Ivan Lewis has unveiled plans for the first-ever national dementia strategy. The government said it plans to produce such a strategy “in response to one of the great challenges now facing society.”

Speaking during a visit to a mental health center for older people in North Kensington, Lewis said, “The scale of our ambition must now meet the scale of the challenge as demographic realities mean dementia will impact on an increasing number of families in our society. The current system is failing too many dementia sufferers and their [caregivers].”

He added: “I am determined that this disease is brought out of the shadows. We need to minimize the shame and fear associated with dementia so that people and their relatives feel able to seek support at the earliest possible stage in the knowledge they will get expert help and be treated with dignity and respect.”

Lewis said, “Dementia is a unique illness with devastating consequences. We know that as people live longer an increasing number of families will have to cope with the harsh realities of dementia. It is of utmost importance that we have the right services in place for people with dementia as well as those who love and care for them.”

He said, “By concentrating on improving awareness, diagnosis and managing the disease we will help transform the lives of those with dementia by improving their quality of life.”

There currently are an estimated 600,000 people with dementia in England, a figure that is projected to double in the next thirty years.

Despite an estimated investment of £3.3 billion a year in treating dementia, recent reports and feedback from UK citizens and healthcare professionals “tell us that there are three key issues where improvements have to be made,” the Department of Health said in a press statement. They include better awareness, early diagnosis and high-quality treatment.

The goal is to have a transformation plan developed by the summer of 2008 to ensure that dementia services are improved in all parts of the country.

bioMérieux, Sloning in joint study

Sloning BioTechnology (Pucheim, Germany), which calls itself a technology leader in the emerging gene synthesis market and a provider of “unrivaled” gene mutant libraries, said it will carry out a feasibility study together with bioMérieux (Marcy L’etoile, France).

The companies said the aim of the joint project is to generate a large number of different gene variants of an essential enzyme to be used in diagnostic applications.

Sloning will use its Slonomics industrial-scale gene synthesis technology to provide a gene library with a full set of ratio-controlled mutants. The successful completion of the study will enable bioMérieux to identify an enzyme with significantly enhanced characteristics.

bioMérieux is a leader in the field of in vitro diagnostics.

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