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Exclusive: Fresenius nears deal to acquire Akorn - sources

A Fresenius SE logo is pictured in Bad Homburg near Frankfurt, Germany February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

By Carl O'Donnell and Arno Schuetze

(Reuters) - German healthcare conglomerate Fresenius SE & Co KGaA (FREG.DE) is close to acquiring generic drugmaker Akorn Inc (AKRX.O) in an all-cash deal valuing the company at more than $4 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Acquiring Akorn would add around $1 billion in annual sales to Fresenius' drugmaking division, giving it a significantly larger presence in eyecare and other areas widely perceived as somewhat insulated from generic drug pricing pressure.

The deal values Akorn in the region of $33 to $35 per share, said the sources. Akorn shares were hovering around $32 on Monday afternoon in New York, up by more than a third since April 7, when it confirmed it was in talks with Fresenius about a potential deal.

A deal could be announced in the next few days, according to the sources, who cautioned there was always a small possibility that negotiations end unsuccessfully.

The sources asked not to be identified because details of the negotiations are confidential. Fresenius and Akorn did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The potential deal would also double down on Fresenius' existing presence in drugs that are injected and deepen its pipeline of new generic drugs.

Generic drugs in the United States are under increasing pricing pressure, as U.S. regulators push for speedier approvals of new generic drugs, ratcheting up competition in the sector.

Akorn said in its March earnings call it expects a modest decline in annual sales in 2017, largely because of pricing erosion and increased competition for a key drug, ephedrine, a central nervous system stimulant.

Fresenius is the largest publicly traded healthcare company in Europe, with a market capitalization of 42 billion euros ($46 billion). It operates businesses in areas ranging from kidney dialysis and drug manufacturing to hospital management.

Last year, Fresenius bought Spanish hospital group Quironsalud for $6.42 billion, in a bid to expand the international presence of its hospital operating business, Helios.

(Reporting by Carl O'Donnell in New York and Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt; Editing by Matthew Lewis)