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Ciba Vision Tops Bausch & Lomb Bid to Buy Wesley Jessen VisionCare


DES PLAINES, Ill. — Ciba Vision, a unit of European drug maker Novartis, reached an agreement Tuesday to buy Wesley Jessen VisionCare Inc., the largest maker of colored contact lenses, for about $785 million, beating a hostile bid from Bausch & Lomb Inc.

As a result of the Ciba Vision agreement, Wesley Jessen said it's canceling its planned $386.2-million purchase of disposable-lens maker Ocular Sciences Inc. and paying a $25-million termination fee.

The $38.50-a-share cash offer from Ciba is 16% more than Wesley Jessen's closing price Friday. Bausch & Lomb said it's canceling its tender offer that expires tomorrow and won't raise its $35.55-a-share bid.

The acquisition would make Novartis the world's No. 2 contact lens maker and boost its sales of lenses that change the appearance of eye color.

Ciba Vision, based in Atlanta, has a disposable-lens business that would overlap with Ocular Sciences', analysts said.

Ciba Vision has a specialty-lens business, which includes colored contact lenses, bifocal lenses and lenses that correct astigmatism.

Bausch & Lomb wanted to buy Wesley Jessen partly to block its acquisition of Ocular Sciences, which is based in South San Francisco. A merger of Wesley Jessen and Ocular would have moved the combined company into the No. 2 spot in the worldwide contact lens market--ahead of Bausch & Lomb. Johnson & Johnson is the largest maker of contact lenses.

Wesley Jessen holds patents for colored contacts, a business Bausch & Lomb could expand with its larger global sales force.

Shares in Wesley Jessen, based in Des Plaines, Ill., rose $3.69, or 11%, to $36.88 on Nasdaq. Ocular Sciences fell $1.75, or 12%, to $13.25 on Nasdaq. Novartis' American depositary receipts fell 6 cents to $37, and Bausch & Lomb shares gained 6 cents to $72, both on the New York Stock Exchange.

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