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Bergen, Ally Offer $435 Million for European Drug Distributor


ORANGE — Bergen Brunswig Inc. says it has joined forces with a French pharmaceuticals supplier in a $435-million offer to acquire Europe's largest drug distributor.

Bergen and Cooperation Pharmaceutique Francaise, France's largest supplier of over-the-counter drugs, have formed a joint venture to acquire French distributor Office Commercial Pharmaceutique.

Orange-based Bergen Brunswig's $90-million share of the deal would give it a 20% stake in the European distributorship, said Bergen Brunswig Chief Financial Officer Neil F. Dimick on Tuesday. Bergen Brunswig's stake could increase to about 34% at a later date, Dimick said.

Bergen Brunswig, the second-largest drug distributor in the United States--with yearly revenue of $6 billion--began negotiations to move into the European pharmaceutical market in January. It initially announced its intention to buy into Cooperation Pharmaceutique Francaise in April.

Under French Stock Exchange rules, the takeover bid must be open for the next 20 working days to allow other companies a chance to challenge the proposed acquisition. If a challenge doesn't come within 15 days, the deal will be allowed to go through, Dimick said.

Barring any such challenge, Dimick said Bergen Brunswig and Cooperation Pharmaceutique Francaise could close the deal for Office Commercial Pharmaceutique by the end of the month. Shares in the company will be tendered in July, he said.

"We really view this to be a strong market," Dimick said. "And this opportunity is unique."

Bergen Brunswig stock, traded on the American Stock Exchange, closed at $18.75 a share Tuesday, down 38 cents.

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