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Nestle to snap up US allergy specialist Aimmune

Swiss food giant Nestle said Monday it would acquire US allergy treatment company Aimmune Therapeutics in a deal valued at $2.6 billion (2.1 billion euros).

Nestle Health Science (NHS), the Swiss company’s nutritional medicine subsidiary, already has over a 25-percent stake in the Californian firm and said it planned to buy up the rest in a bid to extend its food allergy portfolio.

Nestle said it was especially eager to acquire Aimmune’s Palforzia, which it said was the only treatment approved by the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to help reduce the frequency and severity of peanut allergies in children aged 4 through 17.

It said it would offer shareholders $34.50 per share — 174 percent above Aimmune’s closing price on Friday — and would finance the purchase “with cash on hand”.

NHS chief Greg Behar hailed the deal, saying in a statement that the acquisition would make it possible to “offer a wide range of solutions that can transform the lives of people suffering from food allergies around the world.”

“Food allergies are not only disruptive to everyday life, they can be life threatening,” Nestle stressed, pointing out that up to 240 million people worldwide have them, with peanut allergy being the most common.

The transaction is expected to be completed during the final three months of the year.

Following the announcement, Nestle saw its share price rise nearly one percent in midday trading while the Swiss stock exchange’s main SMI index rose 0.75 percent.

Analysts were positive, with Jean-Philippe Bertschy of Vontobel describing the deal as a “milestone”, adding though that it came as only “half a surprise”.

Nestle, which in 2018 swallowed Canadian vitamin maker Atrium Innovations at a similar price, has made no secret of its intention to strengthen its presence in the health and nutrition sector.

Bertschy pointed out that Nestle, which knows Aimmune well, had seized the “opportunity” just as the Californian company’s share price was at one of its lowest points since July 2016.