Novartis is planning to spend 907 million francs, or $880 million, to get control of fellow Swiss company Speedel, its development partner for the antihypertensive Tekturna/Rasilez, after the leading stockholders at the biotechnology company decided to sell their shares.

The Basel-based drugs major is making its swoop on Speedel following an announcement by the latter’s chief executive Alice Huxley that she and four other major shareholders have entered into an agreement with Novartis to sell up. Those shares are being sold for 525.4 million francs and as a result Novartis, which already owned 9.7% of Speedel, is obliged to make a mandatory public tender offer to the latter’s shareholders.

Novartis, which now holds a 61.4% stake in Speedel, has therefore launched a public tender offer to the other stockholders for 130 francs per share, which represents an 80% premium to the average price for the 60 trading days prior to the announcement.

Ms Huxley, who has offered the board of directors her resignation, said she has taken this course of action in light of “the currently very challenging environment for Speedel, ie the upcoming financing needs and the depressed market sentiment”. She added that “I have agreed to a solution which promises a solid fundament for the future of Speedel, and further investments in the company's successful research and clinical development programmes."

Joe Jimenez, chief executive of Novartis Pharma, said the deal is “a natural development in our collaboration” and with the integration of Speedel, we can accelerate development of Tekturna (aliskiren), particularly in combination with other medicines, and further advance Speedel's pipeline of novel compounds."

Tekturna was approved in the USA and Europe in 2007 as the first new type of high blood pressure medicine - known as direct renin inhibitors - in more than a decade. Interestingly, the firms had been at loggerheads over the level of royalties Speedel should receive but if Novartis’ bid is successful, that dispute will become history.