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McKesson Said in Talks to Acquire Stake in Celesio

McKesson Corp., the largest U.S. pharmaceutical distributor, is in talks to acquire a majority stake in Germany’s Celesio AG, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The discussions aren’t yet at an advanced stage and McKesson may still fail to reach a deal with Franz Haniel & Cie GmbH, the family-owned holding company that controls Celesio, the person said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. Haniel in July hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to advise on options including a sale of part or all of its holdings, two people familiar with the matter said then.

Since Walgreen Co.’s 2012 deal to buy 45 percent of Alliance Boots, the owner of the largest U.K. pharmacy chain, drug distributors have been examining their positions in Europe and looking at ways to cut costs. Celesio’s shares have climbed 57 percent this year amid takeover speculation, giving the Stuttgart, Germany-based company a market value of about 3.5 billion euros ($4.8 billion).

“There’s a precedent with cross-border deals in the pharmaceutical supply chain,” Ross Muken, an analyst with International Strategy and Investment Group in New York, said in an interview. “Given their interest and the level of speculation, I would say there’s a fair degree of chance this happens.”

“McKesson does not comment on market rumors or speculation,” the company said in an e-mail. Spokesmen for Celesio and Haniel declined to comment on the talks, which were reported earlier today by Dow Jones newswires.

Celesio rose 20 percent to 20.49 euros at close of trading in Germany, the most since 1996. McKesson gained 3.2 percent to $133.72 at the close in New York, the highest price in more than 19 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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