Shareholders Approve $32 Billion Baxalta-Shire Merger

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) —

Shareholders of Chicago-area drug company Baxalta and Irish firm Shire voted Friday to approve the $32 billion merger of the two firms.

The combined company, which will be run from Shire’s Dublin headquarters, aims to be a world leader in treating hemophilia and other rare diseases, and will benefit from Ireland’s lower corporate tax rate.

Announced in January, the deal is expected to save around $250 million a year in corporate administrative functions, Shire said. The merger was sealed after the companies determined it would not be blocked by U.S. tax laws that attempt to prevent tax avoidance via so-called corporate inversions that ship profits to lower tax jurisdictions.

Ludwig Hantson, Baxalta’s CEO, will step down, and the merged company will be known as Shire and be run by Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov. Shire’s U.S. offices are based in Lexington, Mass., and the company has not said what will happen to the 800 workers at Baxalta’s Chicago-area offices.

In a news release Friday morning, Ornskov said, “We are pleased to take this important step toward completing our combination with Baxalta, and are grateful that our shareholders have voiced their support by approving this transaction. The combination will allow us to realize our goal of building the leading global biotechnology company focused on rare diseases and other highly specialized conditions, offering greater opportunities for our patients, health care partners and employees.”

The companies said 94 percent of votes cast by Shire shareholders backed the merger, while 99 percent of Baxalta shareholders who voted agreed to it.

Baxalta was once the biosciences division of Baxter, also based in suburban Chicago. Baxter decided to separate the division in July to focus on its medical products business, such as dialysis equipment and infusion pumps.

The deal is expected to close June 3, the firms said.

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