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NicOx Stock Rises on Eye-Drug Company Stake-Purchase Plan

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- NicOx SA shares surged to the highest in almost two years after the French drug developer agreed to buy a stake in U.K. eye-medicine company Altacor Ltd. as part of a plan to build an ophthalmology business.

NicOx jumped as much as 44 percent to 4.50 euros, the highest intraday price since May 12, 2010, and was trading up 33 percent at 4.15 euros as of 2:40 p.m. in Paris.

The company will pay 2 million pounds ($3.17 million) for the stake, Sophia Antipolis-based NicOx said today in a statement. The drugmaker announced the agreement eight days after publishing positive trial results on a glaucoma treatment licensed to Bausch & Lomb Inc. NicOx had fallen in each of the previous past five years after setbacks in drug development.

“In just a few days, NicOx has completely changed its profile,” Sebastien Malafosse, an analyst at Bryan, Garnier & Co. in Paris, wrote in a note to clients today. “This acquisition is the first step” in a strategy to become “a revenue generating company with global exposure,” said Malafosse, who has a “buy” recommendation on the stock.

The French company has an option to acquire the rest of Altacor for 9 million pounds, to be paid in shares, cash or a combination of the two, NicOx said. The price for Cambridge, England-based Altacor may increase by as much as 8.5 million pounds if the U.K. company meets certain goals, it said.

NicOx will focus on “building an international business in ophthalmology” going forward, Chief Executive Officer Michele Garufi, 58, told analysts on a conference call today. The Altacor agreement is “the first step of in our transformation,” giving NicOx access to “a commercial platform in a major European market, experienced management team and a pipeline of near-term products.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Albertina Torsoli in Paris at atorsoli@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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