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Merck to Buy ArQule for $2.7B to Boost Cancer Portfolio

Zacks Equity Research

Merck & Co., Inc. MRK announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Massachusetts-based small biopharmaceutical company ArQule, Inc. ARQL for $2.7 billion to boost its oncology portfolio. Under the terms of the deal, Merck has offered to buy all outstanding shares of ArQule for $20 per share in cash, representing a premium of almost 104% to the latter’s Friday closing price of $9.66.

The acquisition of ArQule will strengthen Merck’s oncology pipeline with the addition of some strategic assets including ARQ 531.

ArQule’s lead pipeline candidate ARQ 531, an oral BTK inhibitor, is currently being evaluated in phase II dose expansion study for the treatment of B-cell malignancies. In early clinical studies, the candidate demonstrated a manageable safety profile and showed signs of anti-tumor activity for treating patients with relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and Richter’s Transformation.

ArQule has several other pipeline candidates in early-stage development for addressing various types of indications, mainly cancer.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020. With this acquisition, Merck is looking to further diversify its oncology portfolio with expansion into targeted therapies that treat hematological malignancies.

Shares of Merck have rallied 16.1% so far this year, outperforming the industry’s increase of 7.2%.

If the buyout gets through, this will be the fourth company to be acquired by Merck in little more than a year. In 2019, the company already purchased Peloton, Immune Design and Tilos to brace its cancer pipeline.

On Monday, French pharma giant Sanofi SNY also announced a definitive agreement to acquire small cancer biotech Synthorx, Inc. for $2.5 billion to drive its immuno-oncology portfolio. This takeover deal also saw a hefty premium of more than 170% offered by Sanofi to acquire all the outstanding shares of Synthorx for $68 per share (Fridays’ closing price $25.03) in cash.

We remind investors that the current year already witnessed a flurry of M&A deal announcements including the two mega-merger declarations of Bristol-Myers Squibb BMY-Celgene and AbbVie-Allergan.

Zacks Rank

Merck currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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