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Gilead to buy Kite Pharma for about US$12 billion

[BENGALURU] Gilead Sciences Inc has agreed to buy immunotherapy developer Kite Pharma Inc in an all-cash deal valued at US$11.9 billion, the companies said on Monday.

Gilead will pay US$180 per share, representing a 29.4 per cent premium over Kite's Friday close.

Gilead's growth has been fueled by its pricey but revolutionary hepatitis C drugs but with fewer eligible patients and rising competition, sales have begun to fall.

Wall Street and Gilead shareholders have long been expecting the company to use its cash pile for a big-ticket acquisition to reinvigorate its sales growth.

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The deal, which has been approved by the boards of both companies, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Kite is one of the leading players in an emerging field called CAR-T, or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, which harnesses the body's own immune cells to recognize and attack malignant cells.

If approved by the FDA, CAR-T therapies could cost up to US$500,000 and generate billions of dollars for their developers, analysts expect.

Kite Pharma's experimental drug axi-cel is under expedited US review for advanced non-Hodgkin lymphoma, with additional trials under way in leukemia patients.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal on Monday.

Kite's shares were halted in premarket trading on Monday, while Gilead's shares were up 2.7 per cent.