Switzerland’s Galenica Group is to splash out $915 million in cash in order to acquire Canada’s Aspreva Pharmaceuticals Corp, a move which has sent the shares of both firms soaring.

The Swiss healthcare firm, which operates a highly diversified portfolio that involves the running of pharmacies, logistical services and retailing, says that it is making this “strategic quantum leap with the aim of creating a new fully-integrated specialty pharma group”. Aspreva specialises in the R&D and commercialisation of new therapeutic indications for already registered drugs for severe diseases which affect only a limited number of patients.

Galenica is paying $26 per share, which represents a 24% premium over the 30-day average trading price for Aspreva and the latter’s stockholders will vote in mid-December and decide whether to accept the offer. The British Columbia-based group, which has just posted a 29.4% increase in its third-quarter revenues to $62 million, is best-known for its alliance with Roche testing the efficacy of the Swiss firm’s immunosuppressant CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) in the treatment of lupus nephritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own tissues and joints.

Aspreva’s work will complement the efforts of Galenica’s Vifor unit and help the firm penetrate new markets for its products, the prime beneficiaries which will initially be the intravenous iron deficiency product Ferinject and the phosphate binder PA21, which is currently in development.

The deal is a big one for Galena as the price represents around 40% of its market capitalisation but the Berne-headquartered company says the deal is fully financed and Aspreva's cash flow will enable it to repay the loan facility required to finance the takeover “completely within a few years”.

Investors in both firms seem to like the look of the deal and Galenica rose 4.7% to 494 Swiss francs while Aspreva closed on the Nasdaq at $25.61, up 13.8%.