American pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. is planning to buy Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Massachusetts-based company specializing in developing treatment for hepatitis C. Merck has agreed to pay $3.85 billion or $24.50 per share in cash, the two companies announced.

The deal will be realized through a subsidiary of Merck's, which will start a tender offer to take over all of Idenix's outstanding shares. Upon completion of the tender offer, which is subject to a number of conditions, Merck will acquire the remaining shares of Idenix in a second-step merger. According to the two companies the transaction is likely to take place in the third quarter of this year.

Dr. Roger Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories, expressed his belief that the deal will be of great help to millions of people with hepatitis C. Idenix's expertise in the area, in combination with Merck's resources and experience in experimental drugs, are expected to result in effective and profitable combination therapies to help patients with the blood-borne virus around the world.

Thanks to Merck's extensive experience and innovative approach to treating hepatitis C, Idenix's portfolio is perfectly positioned for future success and growth, commented Ron Renaud, Idenix's president and chief executive officer. This collaboration has the potential to relieve the global burden of hepatitis C, he concluded.